UNICEF steps up efforts to vaccinate displaced women and children in Côte d'Ivoire
TIÉBISSOU, Côte d’Ivoire, 3 March 2011 – Since last November’s disputed presidential election, the political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire has deepened into an emergency.
With tensions mounting between forces loyal to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and his opponent, Alassane Ouattara, tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes. There are now serious concerns violence could escalate further, potentially causing renewed civil conflict.
Amid this danger and uncertainty, the vulnerability of women and children is increasing and so is the threat of epidemics. There are already outbreaks of yellow fever in the north, measles in the west and cholera in Abidjan.
Effective immunization programmes are crucial in preventing the spread of disease. UNICEF is stepping up its humanitarian effort in Tiébissou, located in the Lacs Region of Côte d’Ivoire, to vaccinate children and pregnant women, provide safe water and help displaced children go to school.
In the country as a whole, almost 40,000 people have either taken refuge in camps in the west or are staying with extended families, including those here in Tiébissou.
Families in the Faboukro neighbourhood have hosted many of the nearly 1,300 displaced people forced to flee Yakroo, a village 2 km away from Tiébissou that suffered skirmishes between rival forces last month.
Kouamé Iya, a yam and cocoa farmer in Tiébissou, stands by as he watches his son, Jean Jaurés Kouamé, 3, become one of the first children in the neighbourhood to get vaccinated against yellow fever and measles.
“The reason why I accepted to get my child immunized is because I know that he will be protected against several diseases that are going to come around here,” he says.
Vaccinations at home
“Usually, when we ask mothers to come to the hospital for vaccination, they would come,” Kra says. “But if the process takes time, they go back, even though the immunization of children under five is free.”
In this area, the UNICEF- and World Health Organization-supported vaccination campaign is targeting, as a priority, more than 180 displaced children under the age of five.
According to their age, they will be immunized against yellow fever, measles and polio – as well as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and pneumonia. Vitamin A supplements and de-worming tablets will also be administered.
Women aged between 15 and 49 are also targeted as part of the campaign. They will receive vaccines against maternal and neonatal tetanus.
By Gisèle Langue Menye