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National campaign provides life-saving measles vaccinations in Ethiopia

By Indrias Getachew

DALE DISTRICT, Ethiopia, 11 November 2010 – This past October, Meaza Worga, 25, took her place in a bustling queue at the Dale District vaccination post in Moto village and waited patiently – if not a tad anxiously - to get her six-month-old baby Dagmawi Ayalew immunized against measles and polio.

VIDEO: 22 October 2010 - UNICEF correspondent Anja Baron reports on UNICEF-supported measles and polio vaccination campaigns in Ethiopia.  Watch in RealPlayer


“The benefit is that it will protect the children from disease, so that they will grow up healthy,” said Meaza. “That is why we have brought them here.”

Immunization with equity

In recent months a measles outbreak in several regions across Ethiopia has threatened to undo recent gains made in the reduction of measles-related mortality. In response, a four-day national integrated measles and polio vaccination campaign launched on 22 October by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health has provided life-saving vaccinations to nearly eight million Ethiopian children between the ages of six months to five years.

Dr. Martine Le Fur, Head of UNICEF Ethiopia’s Area Programme Support Office in Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) explained the importance of the campaign:

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2010
Dr. Martine Le Fur administers vaccinations as part of a National Measles and Polio Vaccination Campaign in Moto Village, Ethiopia.

“If you compare the measles epidemic in Europe with the measles epidemic in Ethiopia, for instance of course the epidemic will not kill children in Europe,” she continued, “In Ethiopia measles is one of the killers and the vulnerability of the children in the context of their life, with all the other difficulty they can have, will bring severe malnutrition, will bring pulmonary complications, brain infections, so this is one of the main diseases that we are fighting against in Africa.”

Despite marked improvements in the provision of routine immunization services in recent years, Ethiopia ranks sixth among all countries in the world with the largest number of unvaccinated children. In 2009, the national measles immunization rate reached 77 per cent, with large disparities between regions. The campaign sought to address this inequity by seeking out population groups not adequately covered by the existing routine immunization programmes.

Turn-out was high

“The campaign will provide children under five years with measles and polio vaccinations,” said Guenet Zewdie, a health extension worker administering vaccines in Moto Village, Dale District in SNNPR. “We offer measles and polio vaccination once a month at the health post, but this campaign is needed to catch those who may not have completed all their doses.”

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2010
Children at the Measles and Polio Vaccination Campaign in Moto Village, Ethiopia.

Voluntary community health messengers canvassed seven regions of Ethiopia, informing villagers about the campaign and turn-out was high.

Adanech Andebo was one of the many concerned mothers to bring her children to the Moto Village vaccination campaign centre.

“We came because they announced there would be vaccinations here which are good for our children’s health,” said Ms. Andebo. “They told us that there would be vaccinations against measles and other diseases. I had it once when I was a child. I had rashes all over. The reasons that I have brought my children here is so that they will be protected against diseases and grow-up healthy and have a chance to be educated. I want my children to grow up to be government workers.”



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