|© UNICEF Tanzania/2005|
|A child receives the vitamin A supplement as part of an integrated life-saving campaign in Tanzania.|
By Georgina Mtenga
MTWARA, Tanzania, 1 August 2005 – Tanzania’s biggest ever integrated life-saving campaign has helped improve the chances of survival for 6.5 million children under the age of five. The low-cost campaign combined distribution of the measles vaccine, vitamin A supplementation and de-worming tablets. In the two regions with the highest child mortality rate, 400 000 free insecticide-treated mosquito nets were also handed out – the most nets ever distributed during a measles vaccination campaign.
“All these interventions are what we call quick wins for child survival,” said Rodney Phillips, UNICEF Representative in Tanzania. “When combined with high levels of immunization coverage and effective community-level management of childhood illnesses, these low-cost, high-impact interventions can cause significant reduction in the number of young children dying in Tanzania.”
|© UNICEF Tanzania/2005|
|A woman leaves a health post with a free, insecticide-treated mosquito net after her child received vaccines against measles, polio and an anti-worming tablet during the campaign.|
UNICEF and the World Health Organisation reported earlier this year that Tanzania had increased routine measles coverage from 79 per cent in 2000 to over 95 per cent in 2003, leading to a greatly reduced number of measles cases and deaths. Vitamin A supplementation has been provided twice a year to 90 per cent of children under five. It plays a critical role in increasing resistance to disease and improving chances of survival, growth and development. Regular de-worming rids children of parasites that contribute to anaemia, permanent organ damage, poor physical growth and intellectual development, and impaired cognitive function. Intestinal worms also deplete the body’s nutrients, leaving children undernourished and more vulnerable to disease.
At the end of the campaign President Mkapa of Tanzania spoke passionately of the need to make “the right to life everyone’s responsibility.” He stressed that the availability of low cost technology made the death of any child totally unacceptable. He applauded the partnership between the government and international organizations, but invited more non-governmental organizations to focus specifically on child survival issues.
The strong support of the Measles Initiative has been an important factor in the marked reduction of measles deaths in Africa. Launched in 2001, this successful partnership's core founding members alongside UNICEF include the United Nations Foundation, the World Health Organisation, the American Red Cross and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2001 the Initiative has mobilized more than $144 million and has helped African countries vaccinate over 150 million children against measles.
9 August 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Rachel Bonham Carter reports on a ground-breaking integrated life-saving campaign in Tanzania.