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Madagascar launches one of Africa's largest ever measles campaigns

© UNICEF Madagascar
MVV and President at inaugural vaccination session

TAMATAVE, MADAGASCAR, 13 September 2004: At a ceremony this morning, the President of Madagascar, in the presence of his government, international partners, the Diplomatic Corps and thousands of well-wishers, officially launched the largest immunization campaign this country has ever seen.

Measles cases in Madagascar were estimated at 350,000 in 2002, but because two out of every five children here are not completely immunized, the risk of an epidemic is high.

“Madagascar has committed itself to eliminating measles,” proclaimed President Mark Ravalomana at the launching ceremony. “We are a country that stands by our commitments, particularly towards our children.” His remarks at the ceremony were followed by vaccination session at a nearby school.

UNICEF’s Dutch National Committee Goodwill Ambassador, Monica Maria VAN DER VEN, a famous film star, flew especially from Holland to attend the ceremony and cover for the Dutch media the initial days of the campaign.

“There are many children in Holland who do not realize that kids still die from measles,” said the Ambassador. “I am here to explain to Dutch children the importance of vaccination as well as to congratulate the Malagasy population on vaccinating their children. There is no reason whatsoever that a child should die from measles when a vaccine exists to prevent this,” she emphasized.

The measles campaign, which lasts through the 8th of October, aims to reach 7.6 million children around the country, many of whom live in rural areas -- some of which are completely inaccessible by road.

Preparations to deliver the 10 million doses of the measles vaccine as well as to recruit vaccinators and mobilisers began six months ago. “Madagascar may indeed be the world’s ninth poorest country,” said UNICEF’s Representative Barbara Bentein, “but the way in which this campaign has succeeded in bringing together thousands of people, young and old, men and women, girls and boys, religious and traditional to join together in THE largest mass mobilization effort ever, is no less than extraordinary.”

More than US$ 7 million has been spent on the campaign, US$ 4.8 million of which has been raised by UNICEF, through the generous support of partners such as WHO, the UN Foundation, CDC, the American Red Cross, GAVI and the Canadian International Development Agency, to name a few.

What is notable about the campaign, aside from the substantial monetary contributions is the volunteerism of individuals, who come from all walks of life – including diverse religious groups, traditional chiefs, teachers, nurses, doctors, medical students, scout organizations, the army, private companies, local media and several NGOs.

In addition, 7,000+ vaccinators and 15,000+ community mobilisers have also been recruited to immunize all children between the ages of nine months and fourteen years. Vaccinated children under the age of five will be supplemented with vitamin A capsules, while all children under fourteen years will receive deworming tablets to boast their immunity.

Children will be reached through a “bottom-up” phased strategy that will be rolled out in each of the country’s 111 districts. During the first phase, vaccination teams will immunize children in schools and crèches; in the second phase at health centers; and in the final phase through a mobile door to door strategy to ensure that no child has been left out.

For more information, please contact:
Misbah M. Sheikh
Communication Officer
UNICEF Madagascar
Tel: (261-20) 22 626 45/46
Fax: (261-20) 22 628 45
Mobile: (261-33) 11 892 83
Email: msheikh@unicef.org




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