UNICEF begins mass vaccination against measles in Somalia
Following measles outbreak in Somalia, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners are supporting a swift delivery of 55,000 doses of measles vaccine to Kismayo in Somalia.
Also being delivered is Vitamin A supplementation to boost the immunity of some 54,000 children under the age of 10 that are expected to be vaccinated.
“Measles is one of the most deadly vaccine-preventable diseases but sadly it is far from being the only one in Somalia,” Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Somalia’s acting Representative, said in a statement by the office of the UN Secretary-General.
Somalia, where measles continue to be the leading cause of death among young children, has one of the lowest immunisation rates in the world.
The disease can be prevented with two doses of a safe and effective vaccine, while lack of immunisation can lead to pneumonia, diarrhoea, and encephalitis.
They cause brain swelling and blindness and attack those with weak immunity resulting from malnutrition, Vitamin A deficiency and unhygienic living conditions.
Hopkins added that the UN agency was very gracious of the donors’ support, but said more support is needed to secure a nationwide immunisation coverage and engagement with local communities, as well as fully vaccinate every child.
UNICEF reported that there have been over 704 cases of fever and rashes in Kismayo, the majority of them children.
The UNICEF chief said many of the children, suspected to be suffering from measles, were sleeping on the floor of Kismayo General Hospital.
He added that most of them were not vaccinated against measles although there were 16 free vaccination posts in Kismayo.
In addition, the UN agency has sent three freezers for the cold chain storage for vaccines, according to him.
He said the initiative was supported by several donors, including the UK’s Department for International Development, Finland, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is funding the cold chain and awareness creation, as well as the newly introduced vaccine against polio (IPV) and the Pentavalent vaccine which covers childhood TB, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib). (NAN)