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Lesotho Measles Campaign Reaches Over 196K Kids

UNICEF Lesotho

National Measles campaign reaches over 196,000 children

As global progress in reducing Measles deaths was announced this week (68% death decline worldwide and 91% decline in Africa), Government of Lesotho (GOL), through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) released the official results of the Nationwide Measles campaign that was held from 9-19 October 2007. The campaign successfully reached 92.2% of the target population aged between 9 and 59 months.

The Campaign comprised a massive civil activity. Over 1,000 health workers were trained, and support was galvanized from over 2,000 social mobilizers from GOL, NGOs, churches, teachers, volunteers, community health workers and civil society who went door-to-door informing and educating people about the need to vaccinate children. The latter spread out using cars, trucks, planes, and helicopters as part of the campaign that also provided vitamin A (to boost the immune system) and de-worming tablets in addition to the measles vaccine.

A total of 196,490 (92.2%) out of the targeted 213,032 children were vaccinated against Measles; they were reached through 1,802 vaccination sites established in all the ten districts. Vitamin A was provided to 85.5% of targeted children, while 81% of targeted children received Albendazole (de-worming).

The last major campaign of this nature was held in Lesotho in 2004 when about 83% of children between 6 - 59 months were reached and routine immunization figures were just 78%. Since then, routine vaccination coverage had consistently remained below 80%.

"Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known. It remains a leading cause of death among young children, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Reaching over 92% of the targeted children with measles vaccination is a milestone achievement and will contribute significantly in reducing child mortality in Lesotho", said Aichatou Diawara-Flambert, UNICEF Country Representative.

A Measles post-campaign evaluation survey was carried out, with support from UNICEF and WHO. It revealed administrative national measles immunization coverage of 89%. The report cited main reasons for non vaccination being: unknown place of immunization (16%); mother too busy (16%); unaware of the need for immunization (15%). The report's main recommendations were to provide training for village/community health workers; to expand outreach services in hard to reach areas so as to raise the level of routine immunization; and increase Health Education for communities to prioritize immunization.

The Lesotho National Measles Campaign is part of a larger global effort to cut global measles deaths by 90 percent in the period 2000-2010. The Measles Initiative is a long-term commitment to control measles deaths in Africa by vaccinating 200 million children and preventing 1.2 million deaths. Leading this effort are the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, WHO and the Pan American Health Organization.

"This campaign and its success were made possible by the firm commitment of the Government of Lesotho to fully implement the measles initiative strategy, which includes vaccinating all children against measles before their first birthday via routine health services and providing a second opportunity for measles vaccination through mass vaccination campaigns" said Dr. Angela Benson, WHO Representative.

The Honourable Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Mphu Ramatlapeng, highlighted the staggering planning that went into rolling out a campaign of this size and commended all partners on mounting a remarkable logistical, social mobilisation and training operation to ensure that most children under the age of five were reached. She also highlighted the need to maintain high coverage through a strengthened routine immunization programme, in order to ensure that all children are vaccinated against immune preventable diseases.

UNICEF Lesotho has been instrumental in providing technical and financial support for the campaign including more than $ 240,000 in cash and supplies such as all vaccines and related equipment - including with Vitamin A and de-worming tablets. Support was also provided in the area of advocacy and social mobilization as well as development of the post campaign evaluation survey.

WHO provided technical support at all levels of health care services, through quality micro planning, implementation, supervision, advocacy, social mobilisation and post campaign evaluation, thus using the extended programme of immunization to strengthen the health system.


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