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Ministry of Health expects to immunize 3.6 million Mozambican children against measles during intensive Child Health Week

Measles vaccination campaign
© UNICEF Mozambique
Between 23 and 27 May, more than 19,000 health workers and volunteers will immunize 3.6 million Mozambican children against measles and provide other essential health services.

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 23 May 2011 – Despite the existence of a safe, highly effective and cheap vaccine, measles is still one of the top ten causes of infant mortality in the world. Measles remains the first cause of death among diseases that can be prevented by vaccination. Mozambique experienced three measles outbreaks in the last decade. In 2003, for example over 28,000 cases were reported. The routine vaccination coverage for measles is still below 80 per cent in many districts, and the national coverage was estimated at 64 per cent in 2008. This coverage, however, hides geographic disparities. Children living in urban areas have a higher probability of being vaccinated than those in rural areas. Fifty-five per cent of children aged 12-23 months in rural areas received all the vaccines in comparison with 74 per cent of children living in urban areas.

Eleven per cent of children in rural areas received no vaccines compared to four per cent in urban areas. In line with the recommended measles control strategies by WHO and UNICEF, the government of Mozambique and its partners organised a measles catch-up campaign in 2005 covering over 85 per cent of all children between 9 months to 14 years old. A follow-up measles campaign in 2008 – as an integrated component of the second round of the Child Health Weeks – reached 100 per cent coverage of children between 9 to 59 months. These measles immunisation campaigns resulted in a significant decrease of measles cases reported in the country. The number of cases dropped from over 12,000 in 2005 to less than 568 cases in 2009.

However, since the beginning of 2010, as a result of measles outbreak in neighbouring countries, many districts with a common border with the measles affected neighbouring countries have reported increased number of measles cases. A total 2,325 suspected cases of measles were registered nationwide in 2010. Since the beginning of 2011, 255 cases have been reported among them 61 tested positive for measles. Since the national measles campaign in 2008, a cumulative number of over 800,000 children, who have passed through the target age group of under one, could be at risk of contracting measles. Children not vaccinated and 20% of vaccinated children who do not sero-convert. Moreover, when we also consider older children, the number susceptible to measles would be closer to one million.

To accelerate the elimination of measles as a public health problem in Mozambique it is pivotal to immunize all eligible children especially the hard to reach. A follow-up measles immunization campaign is planned by the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, WHO and other partners from 23-27 May 2011.The campaign will be part of the first round of National Health Weeks for 2011 and will reach over 3.6 million children from 6 to 59 months of age with cost-effective basic package of interventions including measles immunization, vitamin A supplementation, and mebendazole for de-worming.

“The overall objective of the campaign is to accelerate, on a national scale, the reduction of under-five mortality,” says Dr. Emanuele Capobianco, Chief of Health and Nutrition at UNICEF Mozambique.

“The specific targets include vaccinating 3.6 million children aged 6 to 59 months with one dose of measles vaccine; administering one additional dose of vitamin A to the same children; and administering one dose of mebendazole to a similar number of children,” says Capobianco.

At the different administrative levels within the country (central, provincial and district), technical teams have been put in place to ensure capacity building for the teams providing immunization and for support staff. A total of over 19,000 workers (health workers, drivers, social activists and community health workers) distributed in over 2,400 teams will be mobilized nationwide. Each team is expected to reach about 1,500 children in five days.

In addition, sufficient financial and logistic resources worth over US$ 4 million have been mobilized to ensure:

  • Purchase and distribution of vaccines, immunisation materials, vitamin A and mebendazole;
  • Effective functioning of cold-chain equipment;
  • Effective functioning of the communication and social mobilization system at all levels;
  • Training of all staff involved in the campaign;
  • Monitoring and supervision before, during and after the campaign.

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:




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