19 October 2007 With financial backing from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Government of Lesotho has launched a major drive against measles that aims to reach nearly a quarter of a million children under the age of five.
The campaign involves over 530 vaccinating teams not only targeting measles but also providing children with Vitamin A and de-worming tablets.
Measles can cause severe health complications, including pneumonia, diarrhea, encephalitis, and blindness. This can seriously aggravate the already severe impact being caused by the complex humanitarian crisis affecting Lesotho, especially the effects of HIV and AIDS, UNICEF said, noting that the country has experienced a drastic increase in child and infant mortality rates over the past decade.
“These deaths and the incalculable loss of human potential they represent are more than needless. They are economically ruinous and, on the most fundamental human level, they are legally, morally and ethically unacceptable, because they are preventable through immunization" said Dr. Angela Benson, Representative of the World Health Organization which also supported the campaign.
Nationwide, more than 1,000 vaccinators are working at over 1,800 immunization sites in health centers, outreach posts and communities with the aim of reaching as many as 221,700 children under the age of five.
“This initiative seeks to kick start a process of regular child health days in Lesotho, to strengthen the routine vaccination, the surveillance system to detect communicable diseases at early stages and to immunize all children against the targeted infectious diseases,” said Aichatou-Diawara Flambert, UNICEF Representative in Lesotho.
“It is also a major step to address and reduce Lesotho's critical child and infant mortality rate.”
Of all the vaccine-preventable diseases, measles is still the leading cause of child death in many developing nations. Every year, some 2 million children die globally because they are not immunized against common childhood diseases.