The Government of Yemen in collaboration with UNICEF, WHO, USAID, ICRC and other partners today launched a nationwide measles campaign in the capital Sana’a, targeting all children under the age of ten – an estimated eight million. This campaign comes in the wake of an outbreak of the disease in the past few months, with over 3600 reported cases and 126 children under the age of five confirmed dead.
This situation is unacceptable,” says UNICEF Representative Geert Cappelaere. “Measles is a preventable disease and Yemen was close to being declared measles free in 2010 with zero deaths.”
The disease is spreading fast, reaching highly populated areas as well as areas with high levels of acute malnutrition. There is deep concern that many more deaths might occur, particularly among children, which makes today’s campaign even more urgent.
“Measles is a big killer of children” says WHO Representative Dr. Ghulam Popal. “Measles can be easily prevented by vaccination. The high rate of malnutrition and diarrhea among children would increase the fatality of measles. Therefore, it’s very important to implement the national campaign to prevent thousands of deaths among children.”
As a direct result of the 2011 conflict, immunization rates dropped dramatically, by up to 60% in some areas. This decrease in coverage risks exposing children to easily preventable diseases such as poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis) and measles.
The US$9 million campaign (costing an estimatedUS$1.10 per child) will be conducted in phases with phase I planned for 10-15 March, targeting 1.5 million children in regions with the highest reported incidence. These are the conflict affected governorates of Abyan, Al-Baidha, Aden, Dhamar, Lahj, Shabwa and Sa'ada.Phase 2, which will cover the rest of the country, will be launched at the end of March.
Polio vaccination and vitamin A supplementation for an estimated 1,259,735 children will also form part of the campaign which will be conducted in all health facilities, schools and some mosques with over 9500 vaccinators, comprising mobile teams and facility-based health workers.
In a joint statement, UNICEF and WHO urged all parents, local and religious leaders and authorities to effectively support this campaign and provide access to all children, and to strongly encourage both boys and girls to be vaccinated especially in remote and hard to reach communities.
Facts: Yemen is an underdeveloped country, with little or no chance of reaching any of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Half of the population lives on less than 2US$/day. Yemen has one of the highest rates of deaths among children under five in the Middle East and North Africa Region, at 77 per 1,000 live births. Every year 69,000 children die before their fifth birthday.