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Instability can’t stop measles campaign

A young boy is immunized at a local vaccination station.

KATHMANDU, Nepal, 15 November 2004 – This fall saw the launch of one of Nepal’s largest-ever public health efforts – a campaign to immunize nearly 10 million children against measles.

This ambitious campaign, supported by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, is scheduled to be completed early next year. It involves some 70,000 health workers, female community health volunteers and members of support teams. The campaign aims to reach children aged nine months to 14 years with the life-saving vaccine.

Measles affects about 150,000 children every year in Nepal. It causes approximately 5,000 deaths annually in the country, renders thousands of others blind or deaf, and can cause mental disability.

With the goal of ensuring that 2005 is different for the children of Nepal, the measles campaign is sweeping from the east to the farthest regions in the west, from the Terai plains through the hills to the high mountain villages. Supplies are being flown in by plane and helicopter and driven in by truck, car and motorbike.

The first phase of the campaign began on 21 September in all 35 districts of the Eastern and Central regions, and was completed in all these districts on 14 October. There were some disruptions in the initial phases: Some of the vaccine supplies were destroyed or looted. But now the supplies have been replenished and the campaign continues unabated, with additional assurance of cooperation and non-interference from all parties to the current conflict in the country.

Children wait to receive their vaccinations.

Measles vaccination is already part of the Ministry of Health's routine immunization program, but some 20 per cent of Nepali children have still not been immunized against the disease.

"Each year, measles attacks about 150,000 children in Nepal, of which some 5,000 will die," said UNICEF Representative, Dr. Suomi Sakai. "This simple and cheap vaccine could have saved them."

UNICEF and its partners are working to inform families of how critical the vaccine is for all their children, not just babies or young children, and also to help get families to the vaccination posts.

“We individually went to inform the families to send their children aged 9 to 15 for the vaccination,” said Urmila Jayaswal Chaudhari, a female volunteer health worker who is assisting with the campaign.

As the effort continues throughout Nepal, more and more children will benefit from vaccinations – with the goal of ensuring that their future will be measles-free.




15 November, 2004: Saving the young from measles in Nepal

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