UN: UNICEF to vaccinate 3 million children Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone

New York, US (PANA) - For the first time since the start of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, thousands of health workers are fanning out across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in nationwide immunization campaigns aimed at protecting three million children against preventable but potentially deadly diseases such as measles and polio.

Mr. Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, in a statement on
Saturday, said: "While the effort to get to zero cases of Ebola continues, it is critical that basic health services are restored."

"Stepping up immunisation programmes that were disrupted by the epidemic will save lives and prevent a reversal of the health gains that were made in these countries before the outbreak," he noted.

He said the campaigns are taking place at the start of the World Immunization Week 2015, noting that the threat of Ebola remains, and vaccinators are following strict protocols including the use of protective wear, such as gloves and aprons, as well as regular hand washing.

The UNICEF official recalled that more than 26,000 cases of Ebola and over 10,000 deaths have been reported across the three countries where the outbreak has already weakened fragile health systems while disrupting routine health interventions.

Mr. Fontaine said in Sierra Leone, where mass immunization campaigns were suspended from
October 2014 because of the Ebola outbreak, a 'mother and child health week' begins on Friday with the provision of Vitamin A, de-worming pills and screening for malnutrition.

He also said more than 10,000 vaccinators and distributors will be going door-to-door across the country to deliver the interventions, which also include updates for those aged 0-23 months who have missed routine vaccinations.

According to UNICEF, in May, an immunization drive for 1.5 million children under five will cover measles and polio.

It said that Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality in the world with a maternal mortality ratio of 1,165 per 100,000 live births and under 5 mortality at 156 per 1,000 live births.

"In Guinea, UNICEF reported that a nationwide measles campaign got under way in Guinea on
18 April to vaccinate 1.3 million children aged six months to nine years, and in Liberia, a campaign to provide measles and polio vaccinations to over 700,000 children under five years old is planned for 8-14 May," it said.

UNICEF said it has supplied over 750,000 doses of measles vaccines, and, together with its
partners is training more than 3,000 vaccinators and county health officials. It is also working with the Government of Liberia on nationwide social mobilization efforts to raise awareness of the campaign.
-0- PANA AA/VAO 25April2015

25 april 2015 04:55:17




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