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The Central African Republic starts national anti-measles campaign targeting 745,000 children.

Bangui, Central African Republic, 17 December 2008 – Nearly 800,000 children under five are to be immunized in a fresh campaign launched by the Government of the Central African Republic (CAR) in the northwest of the conflict-affected country. It features free measles immunization, soap and Long-Lasting/Insecticide-Treated Nets.

This campaign, the first of its kind in this conflict-affected country, is part of a commitment by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) to eliminate measles by the end of 2010. The campaign was endorsed by the country’s Ministry of Public Health.

About 667,017 children aged between six and 59 months will be immunized against measles. About 744,000 children under-5 are also being given LL/ITNs and soap. Vaccinations are being carried out at 885 fixed and temporary sites throughout the country.

"Children represent the great richness and future of our country and our children have a right to health”, said Faustin Ntelnoumbi, Minister of Health, Population and AIDS. “We call on all Central Africans to take their children to get vaccinated and to collect mosquito nets and soap so that you can protect your children from diseases."
The formal launch of the campaign was held at the main hospital in Bossangoa town, in northwestern CAR, and was attended by about 200 people, including local health officials, government leaders, NGOs, WHO and UNICEF. As mothers and children lined up to see health workers a group playing songs about recovering from diseases tried to warm up the crowd.

Ruth Mwero, a 30 years-old mother who took two of her children to be vaccinated said it was good to combine the vaccinations with the mosquito nets and soap give-aways because "when you're talking about the health of your children you have to look at every aspect (that could make them sick), not just one thing."

In the run-up to the campaign, UNICEF undertook a vigorous national media-awareness programme which aimed at highlighting the importance of vaccinations, malaria prevention and basic hygiene. This campaign was assisted by various civil society groups and non-governmental organizations across the country.

One component of this information campaign featured public health messages sent as text messages through mobile phones. In Bangui, trucks carrying musicians and health workers toured the city to alert residents about the campaign.

"This is an important initiative for saving the lives of children in the Central African Republic”, said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF CAR Representative. “This national initiative shows that UNICEF, other UN agencies and the government are able to work together to create large-scale projects on issues that continue to negatively affect this country.”

The African region has been the largest decline globally in measles deaths, accounting for about 63% of the reduction in deaths worldwide over the eight-year period. In 2007, measles outbreaks occurred in a number of countries due to gaps in immunization coverage, reinforcing the need to continue immunization support.

The world's success in reaching the goal of eradicating measles by 2010 depends on several factors: ensuring that all children receive two doses of measles vaccine (including one dose by their first birthday), strengthening disease surveillance systems, and providing effective treatment for measles.

For more information, please contact:
Anne Boher, UNICEF CAR: Tel + 236 75 58 96 01,
Martin Dawes, UNICEF Regional Office for West and Central Africa: Tel +221 77 569 19 26,



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