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At a glance: Nigeria

Measles immunization campaign targets 29 million Nigerian children

UNICEF Image: Nigeria: Measles immunization
© UNICEF Nigeria/2006/Njoku
Health workers travel by boat to reach children in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria with measles vaccine.

By Geoffrey Njoku

EKEREMOR, Nigeria, 18 October 2006 – Nigeria has launched a massive immunization campaign to protect 29 million children against measles, a highly contagious virus that kills more Nigerian children than any other vaccine-preventable disease.

On 3-9 October, more than 100,000 health workers were mobilized and sent to 17 southern states. Some 18,000 community health posts were set up to provide children with measles and polio vaccines, as well as vitamin A supplements to boost their immunity.

UNICEF Image: Nigeria: Measles immunization
© UNICEF Nigeria/2006/Njoku
A young boy receives measles immunization in Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

Of the targeted 29 million children, 4 million reside in impoverished and hard-to-reach settlements across the Niger Delta Region. Other challenges facing vaccination teams included the threat of armed militias that roam the area in search of opportunities to seize control over the local oil resources.

Working with the Government of Nigeria and the Measles Initiative – a global public-health partnership – UNICEF provided crucial logistical support to ensure that vaccines were transported in a timely, safe manner. To reach every child, health workers often travelled several hours by speedboat, then paddled in wooden canoes or trekked through marshy waters in order to go house to house.

UNICEF Image: Nigeria: Measles immunization
© UNICEF Nigeria/2006/Njoku
Schoolchildren gather underneath a campaign banner during a measles immunization drive that took place 3-9 October in 17 states across Nigeria.

Second round of immunization

“All the equipment we have here – solar freezers, deep freezers and refrigerators – is provided by UNICEF,” said the head of the Health Department in Ekeremor, A.A. Okidi. “UNICEF has also supplied medical equipment and drugs to help us carry out the health campaign in our region.”

In December 2005, children in Nigeria’s northern states were immunized against measles during the first round of the campaign. The latest round could bring the total number of immunized children to 56 million, making this campaign one of the largest ever against measles in any country.

“What we see today, we didn’t see before,” said Victoria Obdubo, a schoolteacher. “We lost so many children to measles because we didn’t have campaigns like this.

“Now we have the campaign and it’s saving children’s lives,” she added. “I have been telling parents that they should let their children be immunized. I really believe it is the right thing to do.”




18 October 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on Nigeria’s measles immunization campaign targeting 29 million children.
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