Namibia, 4 June 2012: Country geared to vaccinate 900,000 children
ONAYENA, Northern Namibia, 4 June 2012 - The Government of Namibia, led by the Ministry of Health and Social Services launched today the National Immunization campaign focusing on measles.
The aim of the campaign is to boost vaccination coverage in all thirteen regions of the country, reaching 900,000 children (aged 0 – 15 years) with special attention to the low performing districts.
Despite the dramatic drop in measles reported cases in the last year, the threat of continued transmission because of children who have missed on the routine measles vaccination, has prompted the Namibian Government and its partners to make this year’s National Immunization Days (NIDs) a focus on measles.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services’ Routine immunization performance reports indicate that last year more than half of the 34 districts have reported measles coverage of between 50 percent and 79 percent. This according to the Ministry is far below the expected coverage of 80 percent in each district.
“The battle of reducing measles and polio deaths and illnesses among our children can only be won through high vaccination coverage” said Dr. Richard Kamwi, the Minister of Health and Social Services. “We have a responsibility to continuously sensitize the nation on the importance of routine immunization activities.”
Namibia has witnessed a reversal in the gains made in child and infant mortality since independence. According to government reports Under 5 Mortality Rate has increased from 62 per 1000 live births in 2000 to 69 in 2006 – while Infant Mortality Rate has increased from 38 in 2000, to 46 in 2006.
Although efforts such as the NIDs are being made to reduce child mortality, average annual rate of reduction is too slow to ensure the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4) by 2015.
Improving measles vaccination coverage and reducing measles-related deaths is a global imperative, particularly as it relates to the MDG 4, which aims to reduce the overall number of deaths among children.
In the past, Namibia had great success in fighting measles. The country conducted a successful catch-up campaign in 1997 and in 2000 with a follow up campaign in 2009, while making efforts to improve routine vaccination. However, measles outbreaks occurred from 2009-2011, with 4,605 confirmed cases mainly from main towns of Opuwo, Swakopmund, Walvisbay, Usakos, Engela and Windhoek.
Namibia was declared polio free since 2009. However due to the risks posed by the circulation of polio virus in Southern African Region, the Ministry of Health and Social services continues to carry out annual NID as a means to ensure that the country stays free of Polio.
“We know what works. We must all make efforts to reach all children, wherever they are.” said Micaela Marques De Sousa, UNICEF Country Representative. “Children currently excluded, the poorest and most marginalized; children from all social strata must be reached. This is our collective obligation to realize children’s rights to health in Namibia.” She added.
Partnering for a Successful Campaign
Vaccines alone cannot keep the polio or measles virus away, especially in such a vast country like Namibia. It also takes strong commitment from all stakeholders – government, private sector, social mobilizers, community leaders, parents, caregivers and vaccinators – to have every child immunized against measles and polio.
To ensure the successful coverage of the Campaign, the Ministry of Health and Social Services together with partners including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Health Professions Councils of Namibia (HPCNA), Medical Association of Namibia, the Rotary International, the Namibian Red Cross, UNICEF and WHO, have mobilized volunteers, health workers, monitors and Social mobilisers to cover the 34 health districts of the country.
Efforts are being made to reach urban and remote areas where about two to three children out of ten are either unimmunized or under immunized putting them at risk of vaccine preventable childhood illnesses.
“Through partnerships, the world managed to eradicate smallpox,” said Dr. Magda Robalo, WHO Country Representative. “This has given us a new understanding of how to galvanize greater action against preventable diseases – making it possible to also eliminate measles within a few years.”
This year’s NID campaign will be conducted over two periods: Round one in June and round two in July. During the first round children aged 0-59 months will receive oral Polio vaccine (OPV); while children aged 9 months to 15 years will be given measles vaccine and children 6-59 months will receive Vitamin A supplementation.
During Round Two, children will receive the second dose of OPV along with de-worming medication to improve their health and nutritional status. Deworming medication will be given to all children from 1 to 15 years.
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