Mogadishu, April 25 (IANS) The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) on Tuesday began an emergency campaign to immunise 30,000 children against measles in Baidoa, one of the hardest-hit areas in Somalia.
Steven Lauwerier, Unicef’s Representative in Somalia, said the children have never been immunised before and come from remote areas. Health workers often cannot reach them because of decades-old conflict that has ravaged the country, Xinhua news agency reported.
“The only way to prevent sickness and death from measles is to make sure all children receive the vaccine,” Lauwerier said.
“A child suffering from severe acute malnutrition is nine times more likely to die from a disease like measles than a healthy child. We have no time to lose,” he said.
Conducted in partnership with the Health Ministry, WHO, and several non-governmental organisations, the campaign also includes a vitamin A supplement to boost immunity as well as de-worming tablets.
About 5,700 cases of suspected measles have so far this year been reported across the country, more than the total number of cases in 2016.
Measles, a viral respiratory infection that spreads through air and contact with infected mucus and saliva, thrives in congested, unsanitary displacement camps.
More than 100,000 people have come to Baidoa in search of assistance, including at least 70,000 in March alone.
“We know only too well from the 2011 famine that measles, combined with malnutrition and displacement, is an especially lethal combination for children,” said Lauwerier.
The Baidoa campaign is part of an effort to vaccinate about 110,000 displaced children below five years old in hotspots across south central Somalia, plus 250,000 children in Somaliland, against the deadly contagious disease, by the end of May.