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A vaccinator giving polio vaccine to under-five child in Mogadishu. Photo: WHO
A vaccinator giving polio vaccine to under-five child in Mogadishu. Photo: WHO

Measles and polio vaccination campaign completed in Banadir region

On 30, August, a polio and measles immunization campaign that seeks to vaccinate close to 460,000 underfive children against the deadly diseases was launched in Mogadishu. The campaign continued until 3 September. The campaign is being conducted by the Ministry of Health with technical support from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners. It also provided vitamin A supplements and de-worming tablets to children all amid a COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Mamunur Malik, WHO Somalia Representative, emphasized to Somali communities that every adult has a responsibility to help Somali children live healthy lives. “I would like to encourage parents, caregivers and all adults in Banadir region and surrounding areas to make the most of this opportunity and visit vaccination sites to ensure every child under age 5 is vaccinated against polio and measles, and that every child receives additional supplements to keep them healthy. As caregivers, we all have an obligation to ensure our children live healthy and productive lives,” said Dr Malik.

According to WHO, 744 children in Banadir have reportedly been infected with measles since the beginning of the year, which accounts for around half the total number of cases in the country. Three cases of poliovirus were also recorded in Banadir region. Measles is a highly contagious respiratory infection that causes high fever and rash; it spreads easily in densely populated areas. It commonly affects children who have not been vaccinated. Children who are malnourished are at greater risk. Complications of measles include severe and prolonged diarrhea, pneumonia, blindness, encephalitis and deaths. “As the COVID-19 response continues, it is critical that immunization drives are sustained at the same time,” says Penelope Campbell, Chief of Health, UNICEF Somalia. “Measles and polio are vaccine-preventable diseases and through this campaign, we can stop the further spread of these outbreaks and save the lives of countless children.”

During the campaign, 407,956 children between 6 months and five years (92 per cent of the target) received measles vaccine while 459,456 (93 per cent of the target) were vaccinated against polio. A total of 224 District Field Assistants supervised more than 3,000 vaccinators in the field in addition to the monitors from the Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF. Vaccinators and supervisors were following COVID-19 guidelines during the campaign implementation. The campaign aims to stem the transmission of measles infection and reduce the likelihood of future measles outbreaks in Somalia. Adding polio vaccine to the campaign will also help to bolster protection against polio virus type 1 and 3 among Somali children. A total of 17 positive polio cases were so far reported in the country in 2020. More than 600 teams with skilled community vaccinators, frontline health workers and social mobilizers implemented the campaign.