The aim is to vaccinate an estimated 30,000 children living in more than 50 camps in Dili in the first seven days of the two-week campaign. Children aged 6-59 months will also be given vitamin A supplements to boost their immunity and de-worming tablets. Vaccines, supplied by UNICEF, will be administered mainly by health workers living in the camps. Two vaccinators will serve each camp, although more will conduct immunizations in the biggest shelters. One measles dose is sufficient to inoculate a child for life.
Scores of volunteers have been mobilized to spread word about the campaign and UNICEF and its partners are distributing information materials in the camps to explain to parents why measles vaccination and vitamin A supplementation for their children are crucial.
“Children who are weak, malnourished and living in crowded and unsanitary conditions are especially vulnerable to measles, which can spread rapidly,” said Arnold Calo-oy, UNICEF Project Officer for immunization in Timor-Leste. “Measles vaccination coverage of Timorese children below the age of one is around 50 per cent, which leaves a lot of children at risk of the disease in this emergency.”
Screening of young children for malnutrition will also be carried out during the campaign. Severely malnourished children will be referred to the hospital and moderately malnourished children will be given supplementary feeding. Before the crisis, around half of all children below the age of five in Timor-Leste were underweight.
In the second week of the campaign, health workers will vaccinate children living either at home or with host families in the capital and surrounding areas.
Around 70,000 people are living in makeshift camps in Dili, which has been plagued by civil unrest since late April. Another 70,000 Dili residents have moved to the districts and are living either in camps or with extended or host families.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.