Emergency measles vaccination campaign to protect 125,000 children in Central African Republic
The measles campaign runs 22-26 May in Bangui
BANGUI/YAOUNDE, 21 May 2013 – UNICEF and its partners are mounting an emergency measles vaccination campaign in Bangui, the conflict-hit capital of the Central African Republic, after eight children tested positive for the disease in April. Working with the Ministry of Health, World Health Organization and NGO partners Merlin, IMC, ACF, PU-AMI and COOPI, UNICEF aims to reach 125, 000 children during the 22-26 May campaign.
Recent fighting in the country has led to a breakdown of basic services and increased the risk of disease outbreaks in Bangui and across the country. This, along with poor living conditions, and a historically low vaccination rate for measles of 62 per cent, means that the lives of large numbers of children are now at risk from the disease.
“Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children. Mass violence and armed conflict in CAR has left millions of people without access to basic health care, with hundreds of thousands of children at risk from a disease that can spread rapidly amongst deprived communities,” said UNICEF Representative Souleymane Diabate.
The emergency vaccination campaign faces considerable challenges. Secure humanitarian access to those in need remains difficult in CAR. Following the coup on 24 March 2013, the security situation continues to be tenuous as law and order have yet to be fully restored in the capital. Many regions remain difficult to reach because of violence and insecurity and will be even harder to access as the rainy season sets in. Despite this, UNICEF is working with partners on the ground to respond to the emergency that is either directly or indirectly affecting the entire population of 4.6 million.
“Wherever access permits, UNICEF is on the ground working with partners to deliver life-saving interventions. Our immediate priorities are to provide emergency response in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and to protect children from violence, separation and recruitment into armed groups,” added Diabate.
In preparation for the measles campaign, 246,500 vaccines arrived in Bangui on 15 May, including 100,000 vaccines purchased by funds donated by the airline easyJet. The vaccines will be used to respond to the measles outbreak in Bangui and to improve routine measles vaccination in high-risk regions of the country.
Since the 24 March 2013 coup, UNICEF has provided direct support for emergency health activities at the four main hospitals in Bangui and health centres throughout the country, including emergency health supplies for up to 141,000 people over three months.
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