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An aggressive push to eradicate measles in Mauritania

© UNICEF Mauritania/2008
Prime Minister of Mauritania Zeine Ould Zeidane (second from left) supporting the measles inoculation campaign.

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania, 5 February 2008 –  Last month, 18-month-old Mariem received an inoculation that will provide her with lifetime immunity against measles – a disease that has already killed many children in Mauritania.

Mariem is one of nearly 475,000 Mauritanian children between the ages of nine months and five years who have been targeted as part of an aggressive measles eradication campaign supported by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).  Over a period of five days, nearly 1,500 vaccinators went all over the country offering routine immunization, monitoring and education – with the hope of one day eradicating measles forever.

“It is indispensable for me to get my children vaccinated against measles and what often comes with it: pain, disability and even death,” said Mariem’s mother, who like thousands of others heard about the vaccinations on the radio and received a message on her cell phone.

Support at the highest levels

Mauritanian authorities at the highest level have stated that they are committed to eradicating measles. At a ceremony celebrating the campaign, President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and Prime Minister Zeine Ould Zeidane joined representatives from UNICEF and WHO to show their support.

© UNICEF Mauritania/2008
Eighteen-month-old Mariem recevies measles vaccine at a centre in Sebkha de Ndrhamcha, Mauritania.

“This campaign is within the scope of the government’s policy to fight infant mortality in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals. The quality of our partnership with UNICEF has been decisive in its success,” said the national coordinator of Mauritania’s extended vaccination programme.

Dramatic effects

The campaign is having a dramatic effect. Only 11 cases of measles were reported by health authorities in 2007, versus more than 5,500 cases reported just three years before.

Houlèye, the mother of a 19-month-old, quoted a proverb as her son was inoculated. “Health is wealth’s older sibling,” she said, adding: “Through vaccination, I would like to save my children from death, deafness and blindness, which are measles’ inevitable byproducts.”

UNICEF and its partners have donated money to the campaign as well as given substantial technical support in terms of management and social mobilization.

“Measles is a major cause of infant and child mortality,” said UNICEF Representative in Mauritania Christian Skoog. “It is easy to eradicate on account of the vaccine’s effectiveness and low cost. Seeing a spectacular decrease in the number of victims – from thousands in 2004 to a few dozen in 2007, we can only rejoice and keep on working relentlessly to consolidate our achievements.”




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