Somalia children under threat from rapid spread of measles


About 30,000 young children in Somalia, most of them displaced by the devastating drought, will be vaccinated against measles as the diseases spreads rapidly in the country.

The United Nations children’s agency says that about 5,700 cases of suspected measles have been reported across the country so far this year, already more than the total number of cases reported in the whole of 2016.

The agency says that most of the children have never been immunized before because they come from deeply remote areas where health workers cannot access due to the conflict that has ravaged the country.

Measles, a viral respiratory infection that spreads through air and contact with infected mucus and saliva, thrives in congested, unsanitary displacement camps, which have mushroomed across the town and surrounding areas.

An emergency campaign against the disease is being held in Baidoa, a town at the heart of one of Somalia’s hardest-hit areas.

“Among vaccine-preventable diseases, none is more deadly than measles,” said Steven Lauwerier, UNICEF’s Representative in Somalia. “And we know only too well from the 2011 famine that measles, combined with malnutrition and displacement, is an especially lethal combination for children.”

Somalia has been hit by a deadly famine due to the persistent drought in the East African region.

“The only way to prevent sickness and death from measles is to make sure all children receive the vaccine. A child suffering from severe acute malnutrition is nine times more likely to die from a disease like measles than a healthy child. We have no time to lose,” Lauwerier said.

The Baidoa campaign is part of an effort to vaccinate about 110,000 displaced children below 5 years old in hotspots across south central Somalia, plus 250,000 children in Somaliland, against the deadly contagious disease, by the end of May.