N’DJAMENA, 19 August 2004 – UNICEF is providing 206,000 doses of measles and polio vaccines for immunizing displaced Sudanese children less than 15 years old, as part of an effort to immunize all of the more than 86,000 Sudanese refugees living in camps in Chad. The goal is to achieve more than 80 per cent vaccination coverage.
Last week, UNICEF, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and health sector non-governmental organizations (NGOs), completed the second catch-up vaccination campaign in the refugee camps, vaccinating the children of Djabal and Goz Amer camps against measles and polio.
In this campaign and in the campaign organized in July in Bahaï, UNICEF has supported the vaccination of nearly 20,000 children against measles, representing an 83 per cent coverage rate among children aged six months to 15 years of age. In addition, 10,000 children were vaccinated against polio, representing 100 per cent coverage, and 8,500 children received Vitamin A supplementation.
In the other refugee camps, vaccination is being directly undertaken by non-governmental organizations working in the health sector.
An urgent effort to prevent measles outbreaks in camps
Measles is the biggest vaccine-preventable killer disease in the world. In February and March 2004, UNICEF organized a massive vaccination campaign Sudan and Chad, many of them refugees living in eastern Chad. UNICEF reached 75,400 children in the campaign, including children of host communities. But since then thousands of new refugees have come to Chad.
Despite the vaccination campaign, a few suspected cases of measles were still being reported by health NGOs; this meant that an urgent need existed for preventing any measles outbreak among the Sudanese refugee children. Many of children were already suffering from malnutrition, respiratory infections or diarrhea.
To support routine immunization in the camps and in the five health districts hosting refugee populations, UNICEF will also provide equipment (16 refrigerators, 16 cool boxes, 80 vaccine carriers, and 160 ice packs) to help guarantee the quality of the cold chain.
National Immunization Days against polio
UNICEF is now working in Chad to help prepare the National Immunization Days against polio for 17-19 October 2004, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health, the World Health Organization and Rotary International. The vaccination to be undertaken during these days will cover all Chadian children under 5 years and will also include all Sudanese refugee children in eastern Chad.