|© UNICEF video/2009|
|A vaccination campaign in disaster-hit areas of Samoa aims to protect children from preventable diseases such as measles.|
By David Youngmeyer
APIA, Samoa, 2 November 2009 – UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) are giving full support to a nationwide measles and vitamin A immunization campaign by the Samoan Government. The campaign aims to protect more than 32,000 children in the wake of the recent tsunami here.
The six-week campaign started on 26 October in the tsunami-affected districts of Lalomanu and Poutasi. It aims to immunize the most at-risk group of children – those between the ages of six months and five years.
UNICEF is providing essential equipment for the campaign, including vaccines, vitamin A supplements, syringes and safety boxes, as well as cold-chain equipment that is needed to keep vaccines at a constant temperature in the tropical heat. The Samoan National Health Service is conducting the campaign in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and providing trained health workers to administer the vaccinations.
Keeping children safe
UNICEF Health and Nutrition Consultant Philip Mann notes emergencies such as the tsunami that hit Samoa on 29 September can compromise the health of children, rendering them very susceptible to disease.
“A national campaign is important because it reduces the likelihood of any individual measles case spreading to other children – keeping the population safer. A mass vaccination campaign is also among the most cost-effective preventive public health measures available,” he says.
Vitamin A is administered along with the measles vaccination; it has been proven to significantly increase children’s resistance to infection, particularly measles and diarrhoeal diseases.
About 30 senior nursing staff – two from each district in Samoa, including volunteers from the private sector – were briefed on the management of syringes and treatment of adverse affects, as well as logistics and follow-up monitoring and evaluation. The senior nurses then returned to their own districts to brief local nurses who are helping to conduct the campaign, which is being promoted by radio advertisements.