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Measles prevention campaign gets underway in Vanuatu, with support from UNICEF and WHO

© UNICEF Pacific/2015
Taunono community, on the road to Mele, near Port Vila

SUVA, 17 March 2015 – The Ministry of Health, Vanuatu today began a measles prevention campaign in Vanuatu with support from UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is critically important given the low routine immunisation rates and a recent measles outbreak in early March. The purpose of the campaign is to prevent a measles epidemic in a population made doubly vulnerable by low immunisation coverage and the cyclone disaster. 

“Six teams were deployed throughout the reachable parts of Port Vila to start measles vaccination today,” UNICEF Pacific Representative, Dr Karen Allen, said. “Santo and Port Vila remain high priorities in terms of measles given the previous number of confirmed and suspected cases.”

Up to six additional teams are expected to be trained and start by the end of this week, focusing on an integrated health response, including vaccination, Vitamin A distribution and bed net distribution for protection against malaria.

Following cyclone damage to the cold storage facility, UNICEF and partners were able to restore the vaccine cold store using emergency fuel stocks, so that life-saving vaccines will remain potent and effective for delivery to children.

“Priority for vaccinations will be given to children in evacuation centres, with a schedule of administering the vaccines in the early evening when most people are there,” Dr Allen said. “Retired nurses and medical staff with the necessary skills have been hired to carry out the campaign.”

UNICEF also is distributing health supplies for children and families affected by Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. In the area of health, these include basic health kits, oral rehydration salt (ORS) sachets, zinc tablets, vitamin A capsules, and de-worming (Albendazole) tablets.

UNICEF has also donated tents, school backpacks with school supplies, recreation kits, hygiene kits, water tanks, soap for hand washing, collapsible water containers and water purification tables.

Disaster risk reduction 

The scope of the Vanuatu disaster unfolded as global leaders met in Sendai, Japan for the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake was at the conference. At a session on children and youth, he spoke about the importance of disaster risk reduction.

“By the end of the 1990s, climate-change related disasters affected about 66 million children per year,” Mr Lake said. “In the coming decades, this number is projected to reach 200 million children ― a tripling. More children dying. More out of school. More facing the risk of trafficking, abuse, exploitation and forced labour.”

Mr Lake continued: “And today while communication lines are down and we don't know the full extent of the disaster, it looks as though some 60,000 children are affected by the cyclone that hit Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.” 

“As we address such disasters around the world, we must understand that they are felt most desperately in the poorest and most disadvantaged countries - and by the poorest and most disadvantaged people in these countries,” Mr Lake concluded.

Photos and video footage

Images and videos can be downloaded from the following links:




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 visit:

For further information, please contact:

  • Alice Clements (Vanuatu), Tel: +678 546 7132, 
  • Donna Hoerder (Suva, Fiji), Tel: +679 3236 100 
  • Andrew Brown (Bangkok), Tel: + 66 2 356 9407
  • Rose Foley (New York), Tel: +12123037987



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