|© UNICEF video|
|A nationwide campaign aims to immunize 90 per cent of all children in Indonesia against measles before 2007.|
By Steve Nettleton
KUPANG, Indonesia, 2 October 2006 – For the first time in several days, Juwita is feeling well enough to help her mother prepare lunch. The nine-year-old grins as she slices vegetables in the kitchen, happy to be rid of the rash and high fever that came with the measles virus that recently plagued her.
However, her household is not quite free of the illness. The virus has now passed on to her four-month-old brother, Muhamad Fahmi. It is a worrying development, as measles is often more severe in infants than in young children.
Understandably, young Juwita wants to encourage her friends to get immunized.
“I will tell them, ‘Friends, if you don’t want to get measles you have to get the measles immunization,’” she says.
|© UNICEF video|
|Juwita, 9, is recovering from a recent bout of measles in Kupang, Indonesia.|
Measles is more than a childhood nuisance. In addition to being a leading cause of blindness in children, the disease can lead to fatal illnesses including pneumonia and encephalitis.
To help forestall these tragic consequences, UNICEF is supporting the Indonesian Government’s campaign to immunize at least 90 per cent of the country’s children by the end of 2007.
As part of the campaign, a nationwide immunization drive recently provided injections and immunity-boosting vitamin A drops for children under the age of five in East Nusa Tenggara Province, where large outbreaks of measles have struck repeatedly. The drive also targeted eight provinces in Sumatra.
Dangers of the virus
Complications from measles occur most frequently in poor, remote regions with high rates of malnutrition.
Getting children immunized means not only providing vaccinations but also raising awareness in the community. UNICEF Indonesia Project Officer Dr. Kenny Peetosutan meets directly with families to explain the dangers of the virus and the how to protect their children from it.
“The community was aware of this campaign,” said Dr. Peetosutan. “They are very eager to come to the immunization posts. It seems their awareness is getting higher and higher.”