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UNICEF supports campaign to battle third largest killer of Nepalese children

© UNICEF Nepal/2012/CMcNab
13 year old Laxmi Tamang, the first child to get Measles Rubella vaccine during the campaign at Saraswati Higher Secondary School

By Robin Giri

Nepalgunj, Nepal, 13 March 2012 – Amidst the backdrop of cheering schoolchildren the campaign to battle the third largest killer of Nepalese children has gotten underway.

Flagged off by State Minister for Health and Population, Saroj Kumar Yadav, at a High School in the remote far west of Nepal, the nationwide campaign against measles and rubella is targeted at 10 million children aged between nine months and 15 years.

“It is through mass campaigns like this that the government will meet its goal to control this disease that afflicts thousands of children every year and has killed many more,” said Minister Yadav during the inauguration ceremony, attended by dignitaries form the government , UN and donor community.

The campaign has received a special boost this year, enjoying a wide support base that includes the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, together with funding from Lions Club International and Rotary International.

Ushered by teachers, students at the school fell into orderly queues as the campaign got underway.

“Oh it hurts a little, but I know that this will protect me from contracting measles in the future, and I think the pain is worth it,” said 13 year old Laxmi Tamang, a sixth grader at the school who was the first pupil to get vaccinated; in the campaign which is also administering polio drops to children under five.

In a neighbouring village, Gyan Kumari Tharu, a Female Community Health Volunteer (FCHV) carefully ticked off a box as she acknowledged another child that had just been immunised or provided with polio drops, or in many cases both.

© UNICEF Nepal/2012/RGiri
School children in Bardiya showing their marked fingers after they have been vaccinated.

FCHVs like Tharu are the crucial component in this campaign or any other health campaign in Nepal, for they are the principal agents of interpersonal communication across all rural and semi-urban communities.

There are 50,000 FCHVs across the country in every district and they are the ones who inform mothers about upcoming immunisation campaigns or provide vital information and basic medicines to battle other childhood illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia.

“I must have distributed more than 60 invitation cards to mothers and caretakers in this village, and I’m checking to see whether they show up or not,” said Tharu. 

The invitation cards she mentions are one aspect of the intense social mobilisation campaign, which UNICEF is primarily supporting for this campaign. The invitation card, which the FCHV delivers to the doorsteps of homes after writing in the name of the parent, adds a personal touch to this mass campaign and exhorts mothers and caretakers to bring their children to the immunisation centres.

“The invitations help make mothers feel special, and personalises the whole experience of getting their children immunised, and helps Nepalese women feel responsible for protecting their children,” said Hanaa Singer, Country Representative for UNICEF Nepal, who supported the launch. 

This first phase of the campaign will run in 15 districts of the mid and far western regions of Nepal for one month aiming to reach almost one million children in the area.  The second and third phases will target the rest of the country during 2012.  By the end of the campaign at least 90 per cent of children aged under-15 will have been vaccinated against measles, the third biggest killer of children in Nepal.



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