Myanmar joins global measles-control effort
YANGON, 14 January, 2007 – A brightly-painted papier-mâché doll sold in the shops outside pagodas has become the symbol for Myanmar’s national measles vaccination campaign, part of a national measles strategy launched today in Yangon.
The rosy-cheeked doll is known as Pyit Taing Htaung. Its name refers to the fact that the doll will bounce back upright if thrown down.
"This is a traditional rural toy for young children particularly sold at festival times," says Myint Myint Hla from UNICEF's Myanmar Office, who worked on the communication part of the campaign with the Ministry of Health.
"Children are fascinated by how it stands back upright every time it is thrown,” she says. “Parents encourage their children to be like Pyit Taing Htaung - it symbolizes something that is strong, healthy, and robust.”
The campaign, targeting more than 7 million children aged nine months to five years, is the largest injectable vaccination campaign that the country has ever held and is being conducted in three phases during the 2007 dry season.
The first phase, from January 14 to 27, will be targeting 1.8 million children in Yangon and Mandalay Divisions. The second phase, in March will be in the country’s seven states: Rakhine, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Kayah, Mon, and Kayin. It will also include upper Sagaing Division in the north bordering India, and Tanintharyi Division on Myanmar’s most southerly coastline, which borders Thailand. The final phase in May, approaching the start of the wet season, will cover the remaining divisions, mainly in central Myanmar.
More than 1,750 midwives and 7,000 volunteers will work on the first phase of the campaign, through fixed sites and also through community outreach. They will be split into teams of two midwives supported by four volunteers drawn from organizations including the Myanmar Red Cross Society.
The campaign comprises the first of four parts of a comprehensive strategy for measles control in Myanmar announced by the Ministry of Health today. The second part of the strategy involves introducing a second measles dose into the national routine immunization programme. This will be introduced for children aged 18 months, and follows an initial measles vaccination at nine months. The third and fourth parts of the strategy involve increasing surveillance for possible measles cases and improving case management.
The World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Centers for Disease Control are providing technical assistance for the campaign, particularly for planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Generous financial support has also been received from the United Nations Foundation and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“Myanmar is one of the 47 priority countries for support for measles vaccination,” notes Ramesh Shrestha, UNICEF Representative in Yangon. “The strategy announced today forms part of the Global Measles Control Programme to reduce the number of children dying from measles by 90% between 2000 and 2010.
“Measles is an extremely infectious and dangerous disease which can kill children or leave them with lasting brain damage or sight and hearing problems.
"Pyit Taing Htaung is thus a fitting symbol for a measles campaign that aims to help keep children healthy, strong and robust,” Mr Shrestha said.