The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has embarked on one of the largest vaccination campaigns in the history of the Central African Republic (CAR), aiming to give 800,000 children the tools they need to address the three leading causes of preventable death: malaria, measles and diarrhoea.
“UN agencies and non-governmental organizations run campaigns all the time, but this is a big one and we want it to stand out,” UNICEF Representative in CAR Mahimbo Mdoe said of the 10-day initiative.
“What we’re saying is – here are three preventable diseases killing a lot of children and this week we’re going to visit every corner of the country to give children and their families tools to prevent these deaths.”
UNICEF said nearly a year has been spent preparing for the campaign, including pre-positioning equipment throughout the country, training over 1,750 health volunteers and identifying 885 sites where vaccinations will occur.
“Getting all the materials in place is a huge challenge but so is convincing families that it’s important to get their children vaccinated and get them sleeping under mosquito nets and using soap regularly,” Eli Josoa Ramamonjisoa, who heads UNICEF’s Health Section in CAR, said.
An extensive multimedia campaign is also being carried out in the country in preparation for the drive, during which some 800,000 children under the age of five will be vaccinated for measles as well as given free bars of soap to help prevent diarrhoea, along with a treated mosquito net to eliminate malaria, the leading cause of death among children in CAR.
The awareness campaign includes posters, radio spots and news articles, as well as text messages sent by private cell phone companies to their customers and a rock concert featuring public health messages.
UNICEF reported that the awareness campaign appears to be paying off, with hospitals and health centres across the country reporting long lines of mothers and children waiting for vaccinations.