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UN starts mass measles vaccination in southern Somalia

The UN children’s fund and its partners have kicked off mass measles vaccination drive, aiming to vaccinate 54,000 children under 10 in Kismayo, southern Somalia.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative for Somalia Jeremy Hopkins said in a statement received on Sunday that the vaccination drive follows a serious outbreak in southern Somalia.

“Measles is one of the most deadly vaccine-preventable diseases but sadly it is far from being the only one in Somalia,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said many of the children suspected to be suffering from measles are sleeping on the floor of Kismayo General Hospital. Most were not vaccinated against measles although there are 16 free vaccination posts in Kismayo.

“We are most grateful to our donors, but we need increased support to ensure we have nationwide immunization coverage and engagement with local communities to ensure every child is fully vaccinated,” Hopkins said.

The UN agency has supported the swift delivery of 55,000 doses of measles vaccine to Kismayo along with Vitamin A supplementation to boost immunity. The vaccines are funded by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Japan.

According to UNICEF, measles is a key indicator of the strength of a country’s immunization systems while Somalia has one of the lowest immunization rates in the world. It is a highly contagious viral disease and a leading cause of death among young children in Somalia.

It can cause pneumonia, diarrhea and encephalitis which lead to brain swelling and blindness and often attacks those with weak immunity resulting from malnutrition, Vitamin A deficiency and unhygienic living conditions.

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