Measles vaccination campaign launched in Somalia

24 Apr 2017

Measles vaccination campaign launched in Somalia

Baidoa - Somalia today launched a measles immunization campaign that seeks to vaccinate 110,000 children under the age of five against the deadly disease in the southern and central regions of the country.

The campaign is being conducted by the federal ministry of health with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other humanitarian partners. It will also provide vitamin A supplements and de-worming tablets to children who have been severely affected by Somalia’s devastating drought.

The launch was held at the Beerta Muuri camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Baidoa, the capital of South West State where more than 100,000 people have arrived in search of humanitarian assistance. Nearly 30,000 children are expected to be vaccinated in Baidoa this week.

“This campaign is urgent. Among vaccine preventable diseases, none is more deadly than measles. We already know of at least 16 suspected cases in Baidoa, which means that the true numbers are surely much higher,” said UNICEF programme manager Jayne Mbakaya.

Nearly 5,700 cases of suspected measles have been reported nationwide since the start of 2017, which surpasses the total number for all of last year. 

Present at today’s launch were the South West state Minister of Health Isak Ali Subag, the state Minister of Information Ugas Hassan, and the state Minister of Youth Abdullahi Ali.

Minister Subag thanked the UN and humanitarian partners for their support of the vaccination campaign and appealed for more assistance to enable South West state health officials to reach vulnerable communities in rural areas of the state.

He noted that most of the beneficiaries targeted by the vaccination campaign are IDPs who fled drought-stricken areas only to be exposed to various communicable diseases in the overcrowded settlement camps.

“The major challenge in the health sector is that our current medical facilities were not prepared to deal with the problem of this magnitude, and as such they are overwhelmed. There is an increase in the number of IDPs coming in every day, every week and every month so every facility is overwhelmed,” the South West state health minister observed.

He emphasized the need to increase the capacity of medical staff, which could extend to the establishment of temporary medical facilities and mobile clinics to address the health emergency.

According to the latest drought response report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), around 599,000 people have been displaced in Somalia due to drought since November 2016. Over half of Somalia’s entire population – about 6.2 million -- is facing acute food insecurity, and water-borne and infectious diseases like cholera and measles are spreading.