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Zambia, 12 September 2012: A Promise Renewed: Measles vaccination campaign underway

Goal is to reach 6.5 million children 

LUSAKA, Zambia, 12 September 2012 – The Government of the Republic of Zambia has started a national measles vaccination campaign this week with a goal of reaching an estimated 6.5 million children aged from six months to 15 years.

The campaign, led by the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health and the Ministry of Health, provides a new and strategic opportunity for children to receive the measles vaccination so that they are protected against the deadly disease.

In 2010 the country held a measles campaign for children aged from 9 months to four years but with new outbreaks the Government, with the technical support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, has mobilized resources to immunize a larger age group.

“It is therefore imperative that even children who were vaccinated against measles in 2010 as well as those who have received the vaccine through the routing programme need to and should receive a vaccine during next week’s campaign,” said the Minister of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, Dr. Joseph Katema, MP. He noted that measles remains a significant threat to the health of children in Zambia, especially for those aged below five years. Dr. Katema added that the only way to protect children from measles is to ensure that every child is immunized.

“Zambia is committed to providing routine immunization to all its infants to prevent diseases such as measles. We are determined to increase support for immunization efforts beyond current efforts in order to reach children with lifesaving vaccines and improve the health, development and survival of our children and attainment of Millennium Development Goals,” said Dr. Katema.

Under the banner of “Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed”, UNICEF and its partners, including the US Agency for International Development (USAID), are inviting governments, civil society, faith-based organizations, and the private sector to unite around a  clear and compelling goal: to give every last child the best possible start in life.

So far, 114 governments (as of 7 September) as well as numerous organizations have signed a pledge to increase action and achieve this goal. The Government of the Republic of Zambia signed the pledge on 27 July 2012 and promised “to take action to accelerate progress on newborn child and maternal survival.”

According to UNICEF Zambia Officer-in-Charge Shaya Asindua, “This week’s measles campaign, where thousands of health workers will serve at health centres, schools and even go door-to-door to reach every child, is an excellent example of Zambia’s commitment to ‘A Promise Renewed’ as immunization is key to improving the health and welfare of children.

“UNICEF commends the Zambian Government for progress in the immunization programme which has resulted in a significant reduction in under-five mortality.  We will continue to devote substantial resources towards the survival and development of young children through supporting advocacy, programme design, national leadership, and public engagement,” said Asindua.

During the 2012 campaign, the Government forecasts that 6,438,799 children aged between six months to 15 years will receive the measles vaccine. 1,501,440 children aged 0 to 59 months will receive a supplemental polio vaccine in 30 high-risk districts and 2,728,295 children countrywide in the same age group will also be given Vitamin A, which strengthens the immune system and prevents blindness, while 2,155,444 children aged 12-59 months will receive deworming tablets.

UNICEF, WHO, and USAID are providing technical and financial support to the national measles campaign. Major financial support has been provided by the Measles and Rubella Initiative (MRI) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Besides providing technical support to the Government, UNICEF worked with partners to mobilize more than US$7 million from MRI and DFID to help fund the measles campaign and also supported the Government procure the vaccines and supplies. UNICEF is the world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries.

UNICEF also worked closely with the Government and other partners in raising public awareness about the vaccination campaign through various social mobilization activities including broadcasting television and radio public service announcements in local languages and training provincial and district health and social mobilization officers. Journalists from the print media and community radio stations were also reached to ensure they informed the country that every child must be reached.


About UNICEF:
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations, and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org and www.unicef.org/zambia. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

For further information, please contact:

Patrick Slavin, Chief, Communications, UNICEF Zambia, Tel: +260/211.374200, ext.2020, pslavin@unicef.org
 
Mark Maseko, Communications Officer, UNICEF Zambia, Tel: +260/211.374200, ext. 2024, mmaseko@unicef.org.

 

 
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