Geneva, December 17, 2002 - UNICEF today kicked off a major campaign to vaccinate 3.5 million children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo against measles .
The six-day campaign will push to vaccinate children aged 6 months to 15 years in North Kivu and Eastern Kasai, the UN children's agency said. The agency has supplied materials valued at US $280,000 for the operation.
While many vaccine-preventable diseases kill children in the developing world, measles is the most deadly. In 2000, 777,000 children, most of them under five, died from measles.
So far in 2002, some 222 deaths from measles have been registered out of 26,000 cases treated in Congolese health centers.
Measles is the second-biggest killer of children in Congo where 54 per cent of children not vaccinated against the disease.
The last vaccination campaign in this region was carried out in February 2001, following the eruption of Nyirangongo. At that time, 210,000 chldren aged 6 months to 15 years old received the life-saving vaccination.
During 2003, UNICEF aims to vaccinate 28.5 million children across in the DRC against measles. Half of the total budget for the DRC - 21 million USD - will be dedicated toward stopping measles.