1 June 2017, Dadaab, Kenya – In April 2017, the first confirmed cases of measles, a leading cause of death among young children, were reported in Kenya. The cases were recorded in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Garissa County affecting children under 5, who were part of a group of new arrivals from Somalia. The vaccination status of these children and many others who are fleeing conflict and drought in the region is unknown. This has put the health of those in the camp and the host community at risk.
Dadaab currently hosts over 250,000 refugees from Somalia and other countries neighbouring Kenya. A total of 12 cases of measles have been reported to date with no deaths recorded. The main risk factor for the outbreak is the new incoming refugees from Somalia. Kenya has recorded a high immunization coverage due to the highly successful national measles and rubella immunization campaign carried out in May 2016, which reached over 20 million children. A risk analysis undertaken by the Kenya Ministry of Health in late April shows a high routine vaccination coverage of 95 per cent in the refugee camp.
To respond to the current outbreak, UNICEF has supported the Ministry of Health and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in carrying out an integrated measles vaccination campaign in the camp that also included the Malezi Bora interventions such as, deworming, Vitamin A supplementation, screening and treatment referrals for cases of malnutrition and other medical conditions. The campaign targeted all children aged 6-59 months in the camp and new arrivals aged 5-14 years.
The immunization campaign concluded on 23 May was carried out in Hagadera, Ifo, Ifo 2 and Dagahaley camps that are part of the larger Dadaab refugee compound. A total of 61,755 children aged 6-59 months and 184, aged 5-14 years were successfully vaccinated. In addition to mobilizing resources for this important exercise, UNICEF provided extensive technical support including quality assurance in the transportation and administering of the vaccines, and the provision of advocacy, communication and social mobilization assistance to the Ministry of Health and UNHCR.
The Representative of UNICEF in Kenya, Werner Schultink, says, “We are working hand-in-hand with the Government and other partners to ensure that the measles outbreak is contained and that all children are immunized against the disease. The consequences of measles are very severe and children can die from it. That is why we are now making arrangements to extend the vaccination campaign to the host community, to ensure that all children at risk are covered as a matter of urgency.”
An integrated measles mop-up vaccination campaign targeting host community counties neighbouring Dadaab is expected to begin in the coming weeks of June 2017. This will take place in three sub-counties in Garissa and two in Wajir County. The strategy during the activity will be to immunize all children aged 6-59 months against measles and all under ones to receive all their scheduled vaccinations, to improve the general routine immunization coverage in the host community.
UNICEF is working with the Government, UNHCR, WHO and other partners to continue strengthening the immunization of children in Dadaab, the host community and those coming from Somalia, as well as to establish a coordination mechanism to support effective response to the measles outbreak.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.