Pakistan

Campaign on track to protect 63 million children against measles in Pakistan

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Pakistan/2008/ Paradela
Samana Khan (left) vaccinates a child as one of thousands of trained volunteers taking part in a measles campaign in Pakistan.

PUNJAB PROVINCE, Pakistan, 25 March 2008 – In a small school classroom in the ancient city of Multan in Punjab Province, Samana Khan smiles reassuringly at a little girl named Mahnoor, just before giving her a life-saving inoculation against measles – one of the leading causes of death amongst children worldwide.

“Mahnoor is such a brave girl,” Ms. Khan whispers to the child.

Ms. Khan is part of a comprehensive measles campaign being led by the Government of Pakistan. Mahnoor is one of 63 million Pakistani children between 9 months and 13 years of age who are being vaccinated, with more than 34 million children to reached in Punjab Province alone.

The campaign is being supported by the Measles Initative – a partnership led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, UNICEF, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization – which is committed to reducing global measles deaths.

Easily preventable

In Pakistan, about 2.1 million cases of measles occur every year. Over 21,000 children die from measles and its complications annually, and about 12,000 of them are from Punjab.

Though this disease can be easily prevented through routine immunization, a third of children in Pakistan do not receive measles vaccination, while many others have not developed full immunity. This nationwide campaign hopes to target both groups.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Pakistan/2008/ Paradela
Parveen Bibi, a mother of two, says that she is happy to have her girls vaccinated.

Training volunteers

An intensive drive to raise awareness about immunization preceded the campaign. The drive included meetings with religious leaders, teachers and the local government and was supplemented by television and poster campaigns.

Nearly 66,000 people in Punjab Province were trained to carry out vaccinations at schools and health centres. Mobile teams and door-to-door visits also helped encourage families to bring their children to be vaccinated.

“A few years ago, there were many, many cases of measles here,” recalls the Principal of the Jinnah Pre-Cadet Public High School, Nayyar Abbas Hashmi. “It is because of the dedication of these vaccination teams that the number has fallen. They go door-to-door and tell parents why they should have their children vaccinated. I try to help influence parents when I can.”

‘They will only benefit’

In the Afsharabad neighbourhood, Akhtar Bibi is one of the volunteers going door-to-door, asking parents to take their children for vaccination.

“There are people who refuse,” she notes. “They say ‘our children will fall ill from the injection’. It's my job to explain to them that, no, it will only benefit them!”

Parveen Bibi is the mother of two and was pleased to hear from Akhtar Bibi that the measles campaign had come to her area. Gathering all the children in her extended family, she helped get them to the vaccination centre.

“I wanted to have my children vaccinated,” Ms. Bibi says. “I saw on television how it will help them lead a healthier life. I want only the best for my daughters.”


 

 

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