Afghanistan

WHO, UNICEF and the Afghan Government call on parents to join vital door-to-door vaccination drive in Kabul

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This week in Kabul 3,500 trained vaccinators and volunteers are conducting the final round of a campaign against measles and tetanus that has been rolling across the country since August 2006.

In an impressive move, the joint campaign brings the vaccine to prevent tetanus in newborns and mothers right to the homes of the families who need it - involving "house-to-house" visits by teams of health workers. This makes it easy for the mothers who are unable to bring their children to a clinic, to get the tetanus vaccine at home.

A complimentary "fixed center strategy" to immunize children aged nine to 59 months against measles is also taking place in schools, mosques and other centers. It is a chance for families that rarely go to the clinic to have the vaccinator come to their mosque and provide free vaccination to protect the whole neighborhood against measles.

"We want all parents to take part in this valuable vaccination campaign," notes Doctor Riyad Musa, of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Kabul. "We are here to serve the families of our nation's capital, to ensure the future health of our children, and therefore the future of Afghanistan."

Neonatal tetanus can have fatal consequences, and can be contracted if the birth process or the baby's cord is contaminated with dirt. But if the mother has had at least two tetanus (TT) vaccinations before or during the pregnancy, the infant will not become ill. Measles is a rash with a fever, cough, runny nose or red eyes. People who are un-immunized can get measles at any age, but very young children are most at risk from this serious disease.

Immunization against measles and neonatal tetanus is the most effective mechanism to reduce infant and child mortality rates in this country. Measles deaths in Afghanistan were reduced by 90 percent through two country-wide campaigns from 2001-2003 supported by WHO, UNICEF and other partners. This latest campaign provides a life-saving opportunity for Kabul parents to protect their children.

Parents should ask at their mosque which day this week the vaccination teams are coming. If mothers or children miss this vaccination opportunity, they should also know that their local health clinics provide free vaccines every day of the week.