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Measles campaign a success in Zambia

More than 100 per cent of children between nine months to five years are vaccinated

LUSAKA, 31 October 2007 - More than 2.1 million children, aged nine months to five years were immunized against measles during a week long integrated National Measles Campaign in early July.

Before 2003, measles was one of the five major causes of childhood illness in Zambia.  A campaign that year cut measles cases to zero.

This year's nationwide follow-up immunization campaign was organized by the Ministry of Health, with support and funding from UNICEF, WHO and a coalition of other partners in what is known as the ‘Life saving partnership’ against Measles.

The campaign was a response to the rising number of sporadic cases of measles in the last two years, with over 100 cases recorded in 2006.

Local volunteers supported the campaign. Nationwide, more than 8,997 vaccinators and volunteers participated in the campaign at 1,351 fixed and mobile immunization posts. This followed several weeks of preparations to pre-position immunization supplies across the country using several modes of transport, including by lorries and airlifting supplies to remote regions of the country.

Announcing the results in Lusaka , Zambia’s Minister of Health, Dr. Brian Chituwo said, “Measles can be deadly to children, killing more worldwide each year than any other vaccine-preventable disease, but is easily prevented by immunization”. Dr. Chituwo was happy that this would not be the case for Zambia’s children following the successful campaign.

Globally measles is still one of the major causes of childhood illness and a leading cause of child death in many developing countries, despite the fact that a safe vaccine has been available for many decades which costs less than a dollar per child.

In addition to a shot of the measles vaccine, participating children were given a dose of Vitamin A which was also supplied by UNICEF and is essential for immune system function and the survival, growth and development of children. Children aged one year to five years were also given de-worming tablets, mebendazole, and close to half a million of caretakers had their mosquito nets re-treated for malaria control. Almost all the doses of vaccines and syringes were procured through UNICEF’s Supply Division in Copenhagen, and reached Lusaka weeks before the campaign.

"This was a remarkable example of good cooperation between different organizations,” said Lota Sywander, the UNICEF Country Representative. “UNICEF mobilized its staff and participated in the whole campaign from planning stages to its fruition”. “Our Staff were involved in all committees and played a key advisory role, be it in social mobilization, logistics, service delivery, transport, monitoring and evaluation of the campaign, they were there.” The UNICEF Communication team mobilized of media, traditional leaders, church organizations, schools, and businesses to reach every family and explain the importance and benefits of the vaccination campaign.

The massive campaign cost US$ 3 million with the international agencies contributing the bulk of the money.  UNICEF was the largest contributor releasing more than US$1,700,000 with WHO also contributing UD$590,000. UNICEF funds also partly covered operating costs including internal transportation, training, social mobilization, and staff costs. The government of Zambia contributed over US$185 cash and in kind infrastructure and personnel, all estimated to have cost an additional US$ 500,000.

About the Measles Initiative
The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launched in 2001, the Measles Initiative—led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization—provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns in all regions of the world. To date, the Initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 372 million children helping to reduce measles deaths by more than 60 percent globally (compared to 1999). To learn more or make a donation, visit www.measlesinitiative.org.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 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:
Chief of Communications, UNICEF Zambia at 260-1-252055 pslavin@unicef.org; or
James Simasiku, Programme Communication Specialist, UNICEF Zambia at 260-1-252055 jsimasiku@unicef.org

To receive UNICEF Zambia media announcements by e-mail, please contact Julian Mwila, Senior Executive Assistant, UNICEF Zambia at 260-1-252055 jmwila@unicef.org





30 October 2007:
UNICEF Representative in Zambia Lotta Sylwander talks to UNICEF Radio about the country’s recent successful measles campaign.
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