- A total of 3.5 million Guinean children are now to be vaccinated against measles. The deadly and very contagious disease is to be eradicated from the country altogether. In Guinea, it's mostly through refugees that measles is still spreading.
The Guinean Ministry of Health - together with the UN children's agency UNICEF and the UN health agency WHO - is now launching a nationwide measles vaccination campaign targeting all children in the countryside between the ages of 6 months and 14 years old.
- The aim of the campaign is to reduce the incidence of death from measles to zero in Guinea, UNICEF today reported. "Worldwide, this campaign aims to eliminate measles for good," the coordinating UN agency added.
Every year, measles kills around one million children in the world, half of these in West and Central Africa. It is a very contagious disease that affects the young with 80-90 percent of cases among the under 15 years olds. It is particularly dangerous for the youngest with 1 in 5 of children aged under-five that contract the disease dying from it.
Guinea is described as a "measles high-risk country" by UNICEF. This was partly as a result of the movement of many refugees, many in poor physical and mental condition, into the country from the recent and/or ongoing conflicts in neighbouring Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone. Guinea itself has mostly been calm during these conflicts.
The problems of mass movements of regional refugees further were compounded by the limited reach of the health infrastructure, which had "become almost overwhelmed by the demands on it and the need for vaccinations," UNICEF reports.
The campaign, which will run from 9 to 15 November, will vaccinate 3,500,000 children and administer 1,600,000 Vitamin A supplements to the children aged under five. This campaign complements that of last year when all 800,000 children of the Guinean capital, Conakry, were vaccinated.
- By the middle of November every child in Guinea will have received this vital vaccination and the boost of the Vitamin A capsules for the younger ones, UNICEF says.
Over the last two years - since the Guinean government, UNICEF and WHO began the campaign to vaccinate all children in Guinea - there has been a noted decrease in incidence of the disease down from 11,294 cases in 2000 to 2,151 cases in 2002.
The partners in this campaign are Minister of Health in Guinea, UNICEF, WHO, Helen Keller International, USAID, Red Cross, CDC/Atlanta and BASICS. The campaign has a total budget of US$ 2.7 million and will engage some 69,000 health agents and volunteers in addition to 15,000 leaders and social organisers and 650 supervisors.
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