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Rwanda, 23 May 2015: The Ministry of Health, UNICEF and partners to vaccinate 10,000 Burundian refugee children against potentially deadly polio and measles

© UNICEF Rwanda/2015/Mugabe
Children coming out of the vaccination camp after getting immunised against polio and measles.

23 May 2015, KIGALI, Rwanda – More than 10,000 children who fled their homes in Burundi to find safety in neighbouring Rwanda are to be immunised against polio and measles to prevent outbreaks of the deadly diseases among both refugee populations and the communities hosting them.

Under the overall coordination of MIDIMAR and UNHCR, on 23 and 24 May 2015, almost all of the 10,242 children aged under 15 registered at the Mahama Refugee Camp in Kirehe district are expected to be vaccinated. Rwanda’s Ministry of Health has drafted in 50 nurses to carry out the immunisations, and 80 Community Health Workers operating in Mahama camp will provide support.

The immunisation campaign is being led by the Ministry of Health and is supported by UNICEF and its sister agencies under the One UN in Rwanda.

Since early April, more than 112,000 Burundians fearing for their safety at home have fled to neighbouring countries after an increase in violence in advance of the elections at the end of June. More than 27,000 have arrived in Rwanda, where they are being registered and moved to a purpose-built camp called Mahama in the country’s east that so far hosts close to 23,500 people. Roughly 55% are children and there could be concern that vaccine-preventable illnesses in the camp could also spread to neighbouring Rwandan communities if measures are not taken on time.

“We know from experience elsewhere that the concentration in one small area of many children whose immunisation status is unknown can be a recipe for any diseases to spread quickly,” said Dr Oliver Petrovic, UNICEF Rwanda Deputy Representative. “To be sure that we have the maximum vaccination coverage possible, the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and partners, we will undertake a mass immunisation campaign over a short period of time to try to reach 100% of the children in Mahama camp with fresh vaccinations. The good collaboration between the One UN with UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO and Ministry of Health taking the lead will ensure the campaign’s success.”

Rwanda has one of Africa’s most comprehensive routine vaccination programmes, and Government campaigns have helped to eradicate polio and avoid significant outbreaks of measles. Immunising the children of refugee families from Burundi not only protects those individuals, but also helps Rwanda to guard against the resurgence of illnesses it has worked hard to beat. For UNICEF, protecting children in emergency situations with vaccines against the preventable disease of measles is a core commitment to its mandate to help people in such circumstances. Wider routine vaccinations may follow in the future depending on the situation in Burundi.


UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. The UNICEF office in Rwanda was opened in 1986.

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For further information, please contact:
Siddartha (Sid) Shrestha, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Rwanda, +250 (0) 788 300731,

Cyriaque Ngoboka, Communications Specialist, UNICEF Rwanda, +250788305221,



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