Cold Chain and Logistics Operations a Huge Challenge
ANTANANARIVO, August 17, 2004 – Over the past few days, trucks and planes loaded with measles vaccines, auto disable syringes, communication materials and manuals for mobilisers began leaving the capital and port cities of Antananarivo and Tamatave towards all 111 (health) districts of the country.
The vaccines and accompanying materials, intended for the largest ever vaccination campaign Madagascar has seen, will be provided to 7.5 million children (aged nine months to 14 years) across the country from the 13th of September until the 8th of October – through a strategy that targets schools, health centers and hard to reach areas.
“One cannot underestimate the huge logistics involved in this operation,” said UNICEF’s Representative Barbara Bentein. “The area of Madagascar is that of France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Netherlands all put together. However, unlike these countries, communication here is extremely difficult, given varied topography and poor road and communication infrastructure. Some remote areas do not even have electricity, which requires additional arrangements to maintain the cold chain.”
This is why the management and planning of this campaign has been a huge multi-sectoral effort. Organized under the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Family Planning, and in partnership with the Ministry of Education and numerous other governments, campaign contributors include international and national agencies, most notably UNICEF and WHO, 30,000 mobilisers and 15,000 vaccinators, girl and boy scout organizations, religious groups and the army.
“This campaign has been planned from the bottom up, “emphasized Jean-Louis Robinson, Madagascar’s Minister of Health and Family Planning. “Planning started six months ago and we are pleased to have been able to bring health personnel from all 111 health districts to the capital to plan all technical, logistics, communication and social mobilization aspects of the operation. I am confident that we will be able to reach all the 7.5 million children targeted for this campaign,” he added.
In 2000, measles caused nearly half of all the 1.7 million childhood vaccine preventable deaths around the world. Although in Madagascar, it officially accounted for 1% of all hospital based deaths and 350,000 reported illnesses (2002), only half of all children in the country are completely vaccinated. Therefore, in order to halt a potentially deadly measles epidemic, it is imperative that all children between the ages of nine months and 14 years are vaccinated against measles.
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