A three-day campaign is underway in Somalia to immunize 400,000 children under the age of five against polio and measles.
The effort, led by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, targets children in 17 Banadir districts in Mogadishu, an area already batting a COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers say health workers will also offer children vitamin A and deworming tablets at fixed and outreach sites.
Since the start of the year, 744 children in Banadir have reportedly been infected with measles.
Banadir is home to the largest number of displaced people in Somalia and a hub for Somalis traveling internationally. Banadir also confirmed cases of 3 children with a rare strain of poliovirus that can be found in pockets of children with low immunity.
Two forms of polioviruses, in circulation in Somalia since the end of 2017, have caused paralysis in 19 children so far across the country.
Dr. Asma Ali, acting Head of WHO’s Polio Programme in Somalia, is relieved to be resuming health activities in Somalia again.
“This campaign in Banadir was supposed to take place in November last year, following a similar intervention in the rest of the country, but was postponed to 2020 due to some technical delays. Unfortunately, COVID-19 came about and took over. Thankfully, we now have a chance to continue to boost the immunity of so many young children again,” Dr. Asma explained.
Throughout the campaign, health workers will observe comprehensive COVID-19 infection prevention measures, such as regular hand washing and wearing face masks, to keep families safe. In addition, health workers will share information with families on how to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
Penelope Campbell, Chief of Health, UNICEF Somalia said as the COVID-19 response continues, it is critical that immunization drives are sustained at the same time.
“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,” said Campbell.