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At a glance: Liberia

Liberia measles drive targets 650,000 children under five

© UNICEF Liberia/2007/Slavin
Liberia’s Acting Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. S. Mohammed Sheriff, administered the first measles vaccine in this year’s national immunization campaign to Fustina Donzo, 2, whose mother Martha Halliwonger looked on.

By Patrick Slavin

SAKONNEDU, Liberia, 23 January 2007 – Across Liberia yesterday, a massive logistics operation went into high gear to protect 650,000 children under the age of five from measles.

In this remote village in Lofa County, just a short walk from Liberia’s border with Guinea, mothers and grandmothers brought children to a temporary immunization post for measles vaccinations, vitamin A supplementation and de-worming tablets.

UNICEF is a major donor to the Government of Liberia’s 2007 Integrated Measles Campaign, providing $1.6 million in cash and supplies, including all of the vaccines that will be administered this week. UNICEF is also providing 27,000 insecticide-treated nets, which protect women and young children from malaria.

The five-day national campaign, led by the government’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, ends on Friday.

© UNICEF Liberia/2007/Slavin
Masuma Mallah, 40, of Sakonnedu, Liberia brought her granddaughter, Bendu, to the Integrated Measles Campaign.

947 immunization posts

“I’m scared of the sickness. That’s why I carried my granddaughter, Bendu,” said Masuma Mallah, 40, of Sakonnedu. Bendu is one of an estimated 46,000 children under five in Lofa who are targeted to receive the lifesaving immunizations, which are administered for free.

“The county health team and social mobilizers have been spreading the word for weeks that the measles campaign was coming, and we have banners up all over, so now we’re getting to work,” the Supervisor of the Lofa County immunization programme, Robert Gaygay, said this morning after dispatching a supply of vaccines by motorcycle messenger.

Nationwide, more than 1,900 vaccinators are working this week at 947 immunization posts. In preparation for the measles campaign over the past several weeks, immunization supplies have been pre-positioned across the country – including supplies airlifted to remote regions by United Nations Missions in Liberia (UNMIL) helicopters.

© UNICEF Liberia/2007/Slavin
To prepare for this year’s Integrated Measles Campaign, vaccines in cold boxes were airlifted by helicopter to seven counties in Liberia.

Increasing vaccination coverage

“The government decided to hold the measles campaign now because it’s the dry season in Liberia. From July to November, parts of the country are cut off from road access,” said UNICEF Representative in Liberia Rozanne Chorlton.

“Liberia is a global model for success in increasing vaccination coverage in post-conflict countries,” Ms. Chorlton added. She noted that with the support of many partners – including the World Health Organization, UNMIL and the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission – immunization coverage in Liberia had risen to 87 per cent in 2005, up from 31 percent in 2004.

“And our support of government this year will help sustain and improve these lifesaving programmes,” she said.



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