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Anti-measles drive kicks off

By Akhtar M.Nikzad-KABUL: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in cooperation with World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) kicked off a six-day anti-measles vaccination drive, targeting around 4.5 million children under the age of five.

Around 27,000 trained volunteers will administer the vaccine in 30 provinces. Children between the age of nine months and five years will receive anti-measles and anti-rubella (German measles) vaccinations during the campaign.

Children with measles often die because of complications like pneumonia and encephalitis.

Measles and rubella (German measles) are common childhood diseases in Afghanistan and the rest of the world.

The MoPH didn’t provide exact figures of measles mortality rate in Afghanistan. However, the Deputy Minister of Public Health, Ahmad Jan Naeem, said that despite many efforts for eradication of measles, the disease is still endemic in Afghanistan.

“Conducting anti-measles vaccination campaigns is the most economic and effective way to fight against the infectious disease,” he added.

Earlier, the MoPH had said that 581 cases of measles have been registered in the first quarter of 2015.

Akhil Iyer, Representative of UNICEF in Afghanistan, said that administering vaccine is an effective method for eradication of the disease. He hoped that the two-dose vaccine will reduce cases of measles in the country. “When children are not immunized against such deadly diseases, both children and the communities that they live in are at risk. We want to reach to children in every nook and cranny of the country to ensure that all children receive the life-saving vaccines,” he added.

UNICEF and ministry of public health called on the militant groups to refrain from hindering the vaccination drive and killing vaccinators.

Immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions preventing illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases including pertussis, pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea, tetanus and measles.

Afghanistan’s under-five mortality rate is among the highest in the world at 99 per 1,000 live births.

Before, the MoPH and UNICEF had conduct an anti-measles immunization campaign in Khost, Helmand and Kandahar provinces, which are at higher risk for measles outbreaks.

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