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At a glance: Nigeria

Nigeria completes Africa’s largest-ever measles campaign

© UNICEF Nigeria/2005/Deutsch
A student is being vaccinated in the state of Kaduna during Nigeria’s measles campaign. 30 million children, from the age of 9 months up to 15-year-olds, were targeted in this massive and unprecedented effort.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 14 December 2005 – The Government of Nigeria has just completed Africa’s largest-ever measles campaign in an effort to reduce measles deaths and morbidity.

UNICEF supported the week-long campaign (6-12 December), providing 50 staff on the ground and a budget of nearly $4 million*. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Red Cross, as well as other members of the Measles International Partnership, also supported the exercise.

Nigeria’s measles campaign: Background

A total of 30 million children, from the age of 9 months up to 15-year-olds, were targeted in this massive and unprecedented effort. The campaign focused in Nigeria’s 20 northern states. Phase 2 of the measles vaccination campaign is being planned for June 2006, which will cover the southern part of the country.

Measles kills more than any other vaccine-preventable disease. Children need to be immunized to be fully protected against the highly contagious childhood disease. When routine immunization coverage is low – as is the case in Nigeria – periodic immunization campaigns are necessary to reach all children, especially in rural areas and remote communities.

During the first two days of the campaign vaccinators conducted immunization in schools to maximize their outreach to children. During the implementation children received an indelible ink mark on the nail of their middle finger to facilitate monitoring.

© UNICEF Nigeria/2005/Deutsch
A group of mothers and children stand in front of a primary school that participated in the measles immunization campaign in Pambegua ward, the Kubau local government in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna State.

Logistical challenges

In its effort to reach every child, the National Programme on Immunization, supported by UNICEF and the WHO, faced huge logistical challenges bringing vaccines to each community. More than 24,000 vaccination posts were set up in villages and more than 146,000 people were mobilized for the exercise including health staff, social mobilizers, community leaders, state team members, and monitors.
Ensuring an adequate cold chain to keep the vaccine at the correct temperature was another crucial concern, and UNICEF provided special vaccine carriers and cold boxes.

Motivating every family to come to the vaccination post along with their children was another concern. To help with this matter, influential leaders helped mobilize their own communities. Announcements were made in churches and mosques. Teachers and heath workers informed people, and town criers went around villages to inform communities of the day and place they could get immunized at vaccination posts. Local radio stations also played an instrumental role in spreading the message. 

Large turnout during the campaign

In the end, an overwhelming number of families lined up at the vaccination posts.  Chief Alh. Adamu Umar, from the village of Rafinguza, said he was pleased with the turnout. “The mobilization programme at Rafinguza has been successful this time around because we have educated the people of this community about the effect of measles on children, through town criers and at the mosque before the vaccinations took place. So far everything is moving along nicely.” 

Between 1999 and 2005 global measles deaths were reduced by 40 per cent, thanks to improved routine immunization and supplemental measles campaigns. Together with its partners UNICEF aims to further strengthen routine measles immunization, and place a special emphasis on supplemental campaigns in countries with low immunization coverage.

*UNICEF Funds were provided by CIDA (Canada), Japan Government and Measles Partnership




14 December 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Peter Bussian reports on Nigeria’s largest-ever measles campaign.

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