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Eritrea to vaccinate all children under five years old against measles in national campaign

ASMARA, 28 June 2006 – The Eritrean Ministry of Health, supported by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, is targeting the country’s almost half a million children between six months and five years old in a nationwide measles vaccination and Vitamin A supplementation campaign.  The campaign was launched today by Dr. Zemuie Alemu, Director of Family and Community Health.

The routine measles coverage in Eritrea is just above 80 per cent, leaving almost 20 per cent of children without protection from the deadly childhood disease each year.

“The campaign is targeting all children, including those who have missed out on routine vaccination and are therefore susceptible to the disease.  We need to reach all children to pave the way towards the elimination of measles in Eritrea,” said UNICEF Representative Dr. Pirkko Heinonen.

Many areas of Eritrea have been affected by drought over the last few years and children have been weakened by malnutrition, with global malnutrition rates reaching over 20 per cent in certain areas.  Vitamin A supplementation is included in measles vaccination campaigns because it boosts the immune system and prevents night blindness in children.  A second round of Vitamin A supplementation will be conducted at the end of the year.

Almost three thousand health workers and vaccinators are involved in the campaign, which is being conducted through almost 450 permanent and outreach facilities.  In addition, over eight hundred volunteers all over the country have been mobilised to supervise the campaign.  

UNICEF is providing supplies such as vaccines, syringes and Vitamin A capsules.  In addition, support has been given to the development, production and dissemination of social mobilisation materials, regional plans and logistics.

UNICEF received timely emergency funding from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund and the Governments of the Netherlands, Canada and Sweden, which allowed this important campaign to be undertaken at a time when many children are undernourished and vulnerable to health risks.

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Dr. Pirkko Heinonen, UNICEF Representative in Eritrea, Tel. + 291 115 1199, pheinonen@unicef.org




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