Measles vaccination campaign kicks off in Afghanistan to fight ongoing outbreak: around 1.2 million children in 24 provinces to get vaccinated

Kabul, 14 March 2022 – More than 1.2 million children aged 6–59 months are planned to be vaccinated during the ongoing measles vaccination campaign in Afghanistan. Around 9200 health workers, volunteers, supervisors, and monitors are mobilized to cover 49 districts in 24 provinces in a week-long campaign scheduled 12–17 March 2022.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in Afghanistan is supporting the Ministry of Public Health and provincial health authorities in the management of the vaccination, including technical advice, training of staff, funding for training, costs for operations, as well as with provision of supplies and logistics.

“This measles immunization campaign is part of the national response measure to stop the spread of the outbreak, save lives of young children and reduce the burden on health systems”, says Dr Luo Dapeng, WHO Representative in Afghanistan, who joined the campaign in Malek Mohammad Khan District Hospital in Wardak province. “I appeal to every parent to bring your kids for vaccination and give them the best gift of being protected from life-threatening but preventable disease. I also appeal to everyone to protect the health workers; they are protecting your children and it is your duty to ensure their safety.”

Afghanistan has been experiencing a measles resurgence that started at the beginning of 2021. From January 2021 to 13 March 2022, there have been 48 366 cases and 250 deaths. In 2022 alone, there have been over 18 000 cases and 142 children have died of measles in the country.

The low routine measles immunization coverage of 66% and a longer interval since the measles follow-up campaign in 2018 have resulted in accumulation of the high number of children aged less than 5 years old with no measles immunization.

“The rise in measles cases in Afghanistan is especially concerning because of the extremely high levels of malnutrition. Malnutrition weakens immunity, making people more vulnerable to illness and death from diseases like measles – especially children,” added Dr Dapeng.

Measles is an extremely contagious viral disease. Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk. Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or those whose immune systems have been weakened by other diseases.

The best way to protect people – especially children – from measles is to strengthen routine immunization to ensure that at least 95% of the population has received 2 doses of the vaccine.

In December 2021, WHO Afghanistan and partners conducted a measles campaign in 6 very high-risk provinces of kandahar, Helman, Ghor, Ghazni, Paktika and Balk and targeted 1.6 million children 9–59 months.

This round of the measles campaign covers 49 districts of the 24 provinces of Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Balkh, Faryab, Helmand, Herat, Jawzjan, Kandahar, Kapisa, Khost, Kunduz, Laghman, Nangarhar, Mimroz, Nuristan, Paktika, Paktya, Parwan, Sari-pol, Takhar, Urogzan, Wardak and Zabul. Oral polio drops are also given to children in combination with the measles vaccine.

This campaign is funded by WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies and measles outbreak response fund.

Media contact:

Ms Joy Rivaca
Head, Communications
World Health Organization – Office of the WHO Representative in Afghanistan
Kabul, Afghanistan
Mobile: +93782200354
WhatsApp and Viber: +639189064191