115,000 children to be protected against measles, Vitamin A deficiency
DELHI, 2 January 2005 – UNICEF is supporting the Governments of Tamil Nadu and Kerala to launch a measles and Vitamin A immunization campaign targeting children affected by the tsunami disaster. 100,000 children in Tamil Nadu and 15,000 children in Kerala will be immunized as part of the emergency operation over a one-week period.
“Measles is a deadly threat to children living in crowded camps,” said Dr. Marzio Babille, UNICEF’s Chief of Health in India. “It spreads quickly, killing children, or severely weakens their immune systems. Those children are then too weak to fight off other diseases, leading to more deaths. It’s a vicious circle. But we can head it off with a good round of immunization and Vitamin A.”
The decision to go ahead with an immunization campaign, which will be conducted at relief sites in 11 districts in Tamil Nadu and three districts of Kerala, was made over the weekend by the Tamil Nadu and Kerala Departments of Public Health and the Government of India, with support from UNICEF and W.H.O.
UNICEF has reassigned 12 health staff from Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal to Tamil Nadu and Kerala to support logistics and planning for the campaign. 110,000 auto-disable (AD) syringes supplied by UNICEF to the Government of Tamil Nadu for the routine immunization programme will be used for the emergency operation. The Government is using available stocks of vaccine for the campaign.
UNICEF is also supporting the Government of Tamil Nadu to do a health assessment in the hard-hit districts, starting immediately. UNICEF doctors visiting the camps will look at general morbidity and mortality, drug supply and treatment services to help the local government in its response/.
UNICEF is supplying Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) to health camps in the most affected districts of Tamil Nadu. 70,000 sachets have been distributed and a total of 2.02 million ORS packets will be made available to the state, if required. 40 vans carrying 120 communication staff are criss-crossing relief areas in Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Kanyakumari and Pondicherry this weekend to distribute and demonstrate how to use ORS, and to provide soap at the camps.
While there are some cases of diarrhoea at the camps, no major outbreak of diarrhoea or cholera is being reported. As a precautionary measure however, UNICEF is planning to provide the state with two ‘cholera kits’ with drugs and materials to treat up to 1300 people in the event of an outbreak.
For interviews and details from the ground, please contact:
Corinne Woods, Delhi Communication, +91 11 2469-0401-9 (o)
+91 98186-49088 (m)
Michael Galway, Delhi Communication +91 11 2469-0401-9 (o)
+91 98180-95485 (m)
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