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At a glance: Sierra Leone

Measles and malaria campaign in Sierra Leone reaches 800,000-plus

UNICEF Image: Sierra Leone: Measles and malaria campaign
© UNICEF Sierra Leone/2006/Savage
A child receiving measles vaccine at a vaccination point in Freetown during Sierra Leone’s national measles and malaria campaign.

By Alusine Savage

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 28 November 2006 – A national measles and malaria campaign has been successfully carried out in Sierra Leone. An estimated 800,000 children under five have benefited from life-saving interventions during this major nationwide health initiative.

At the launch ceremony in Freetown earlier this month, the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Abator Thomas, said the effort would result in reducing illness and deaths among children.

“The campaign will contribute to the efforts exerted by Sierra Leone to deal with the high rates of child and maternal mortality and for Sierra Leone to reach the Millennium Development Goals,” Ms. Thomas said.

Package of health interventions

The week-long campaign, which complemented routine immunization services here, involved more than 10,000 volunteers from the Sierra Leone Red Cross. The volunteers were deployed in all health centres, community health posts, vaccination points and referral hospitals across the country.

UNICEF Image: Sierra Leone: Measles and malaria campaign
© UNICEF Sierra Leone/2006/Savage
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Health and Sanitation, Abator Thomas, handing a mosquito net to a mother and child after launching the nationwide health initiative.

They provided a four-pronged package of interventions, including:

• Measles vaccination
• Distribution of long-lasting, insecticide-treated mosquito nets
• Vitamin A supplementation to boost immunity
• De-worming with Mebendazole tablets.

The landmark initiative was launched by the Government of Sierra Leone and supported by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Canadian Red Cross, civil society groups and private-sector health partners.

Highest under-five mortality

The mortality rates for children under five and mothers giving birth in Sierra Leone are the highest in the world, with measles, malaria, vitamin A deficiency and worm infestation remaining the biggest enemies of young children.

Measles accounts for 48 per cent of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases. Malaria accounts for 33 per cent of all under-five deaths.

UNICEF Image: Sierra Leone: Measles and malaria campaign
© UNICEF Sierra Leone/2006/Savage
A health centre at Dworzak, a suburb of Freetown, is overwhelmed with mothers and their children.

Only 15 per cent of children under five sleep under a mosquito net to prevent malaria, but with this new initiative the number is expected to increase dramatically.

Growing stability

War has dealt a major blow to immunization activities in Sierra Leone. By 1999, the child immunization rate was as low as 5 per cent, and the infant and maternal mortality soared.

Now, growing stability and peace are creating an environment where health interventions can take hold across the country. Today, UNICEF is helping the Government of Sierra Leone to implement a National Health Policy and a Human Resources Health Policy aimed at reducing the mortality rate for infants, children under five and mothers.

“In meeting this objective, UNICEF has strategically refocused the country programme and strengthened the link with the Millennium Development Goals,” said UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone Geert Cappelaere. “We need to ensure every child’s right to life, survival, development and protection.”



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