Climbing every mountain: Tajikistan measles campaign
Climbing every mountain in Tajikistan
DUSHANBE, TAJIKISTAN, 27 September 2004 - Almost 3 million children and young people or some 50 per cent of the total population of Tajikistan will be immunized against measles over the coming two weeks in the first ever campaign of its kind in the country.
“The particular challenge for Tajikistan is literally to ‘climb every mountain’ which comprises 93 per cent of the country’s land area,” said UNICEF Tajikistan Chief, Yukie Mokuo, “but we are very optimistic we can do it.”
Some 6,000 health workers, of which 4,300 are newly-trained vaccinators, have started to fan out through the country’s gorges and valleys – including the volatile Ferghana Valley – to find children who have never been reached before with vaccinations.
From the valleys, mobile teams will make their way up to the higher mountain passes and remote settlements accessible only during this period of the year.
Measles is resurgent in Tajikistan since the collapse of the Soviet Union, when measles immunization was routine, giving rise to dangerous outbreaks in the past two years.
Speaking at the campaign launch in the capital Dushanbe today, Mokuo added, “The lead-up to this campaign has been exemplary. It’s been nine hard months of preparations: garnering political commitment from government and forging broad partnerships with sister UN agencies, NGOs, religious leaders and the media to ensure a successful outcome.”
Health workers form the critical link in a human chain that relays cold storage equipment for safeguarding the vaccine at the correct temperature. From central cold storage in Dushanbe, the vaccines are delivered by truck to health centres equipped with refrigerators and from there by vaccine carriers lined with ice packs to the vaccination points in schools and health posts or to mobile teams on their way over the mountains.
The measles campaign is seen as a critical contribution to arresting the soaring number of children who die in Tajikistan before their fifth birthday, now standing at 118 per 1,000 live births. The Government of Tajikistan is committed to reducing infant and child mortality in line with the Millennium Development Goal on this issue.