Tanzania, United Republic of

Massive national campaign for accelerated child survival in Tanzania

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Tanzania/2008/Pirozzi
A boy receives vitamin A droplets during the three-day integrated measles campaign launched in Mkata village, located in Tanzania’s Tanga region.

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, 4 September 2008 – In a country such as Tanzania, where most families survive on less than $1 a day, special medical care is an unaffordable luxury. Thanks to the government’s efforts, however, most services are now free of charge in its health facilities countrywide.

Still, due to a lack of skilled health workers and adequate facilities, patients must walk long distances and contend with long queues to get essential services.

The recent launch of a three-day national integrated campaign was therefore a welcome event for mothers and children here. The UNICEF-supported campaign provided four life-saving interventions for children: measles vaccine, vitamin A supplementation, de-worming tablets and long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets to prevent malaria. The government also dispensed oral polio vaccine at border posts and other strategically located centres.

Mwanaisha Issa, 25, was among a group of enthusiastic mothers who braved the scorching mid-morning sun to reach a makeshift vaccination station at Mkata Primary School. The school doubled as the venue for the national launch of the campaign by the Vice President of the Republic of Tanzania, Dr. Ali Mohammed Shein. 

‘I am glad I brought my children’
Ms. Issa was jovial despite walking 4 km with her young daughter on her back and three playful boys in tow.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Tanzania/2008/Pirozzi
A girl receives de-worming tablets during the three day national integrated measles campaign launch in Tanga region.

“The distance was no problem, as I am used to walking 10 km to reach the nearest health facility,” she said. “I am glad I brought my children to get these services all at once.”

Like others at the clinic, Ms. Issa and her children stood in a long, winding queue as a health worker gathered information and directed them toward the appropriate services. She had been convinced by the village social mobilization committee that it was safe for children to be vaccinated against measles and other childhood illnesses.

“I was away when they came to my house to register the children for the vaccination campaign. I just came back two days ago and was informed by my mother-in-law that it was necessary that I bring them here,” Ms. Issa explained.

New lease on life
In Tanga, a region with a population of 1.6 million, more than 579,000 children were registered to be vaccinated at 1,026 designated centres, according to Regional Commissioner Mohammed Abdulaziz.

“My target is to ensure 100 per cent coverage for all eligible children,” Mr. Abdulaziz pledged during his official address, adding that all children would also receive a bed net free of charge.

Emphasizing the need for parents to have their children vaccinated during the campaign, Dr. Shein said the nationwide effort was meant to give children a new lease on life – and to fulfil their rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He also reiterated the importance of community health workers in educating parents on proper nutrition and health practices.

Preventing measles and polio
Dr. Shein reminded parents that measles and polio were still a threat to many children in Tanzania.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Tanzania/2008/Pirozzi
A woman has her baby registered before getting vitamin A drops during the launch of Tanzania’s national integrated measles campaign.

“There is a need to safeguard against reversing the gains that have so far been achieved in the fight against the measles and polio, as well as vitamin A deficiency,” he noted.

In 2006, Tanzania suffered an outbreak of measles in Dar es Salaam and Tanga. About 3,500 cases were reported, including 1,683 in Tanga alone. These cases led to 22 deaths nationwide.

For the recent measles and child-health drive, UNICEF procured all vaccines, equipment and communication materials on behalf of the government. With support from the Measles Partnership, UNICEF also funded about 40 percent of measles vaccines and immunization equipment. All vitamin A capsules used in the campaign were donated by Canadian Government, through UNICEF.

 


 

 

Video

1 September 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett reports on a UNICEF-supported campaign in Tanzania providing measles vaccinations and other child health interventions. VIDEO  high | low

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