By Gaelle Bausson
DUÉKOUÉ, Côte d’Ivoire, 28 April 2011 – After four and a half months of conflict, Côte d’Ivoire is finally getting back on its feet with a renewed immunization drive.
Artists, youths, traditional and religious leaders, health personnel, volunteers and aid workers all joined the authorities and UNICEF to kick-off the vaccination campaign at an event on ‘Peace Plaza’ in the centre of the western city of Duékoué.
“It’s a relief to see that vaccine services are again available for my child. I heard of the risks of outbreak and I was scared,” said Kalamako Kone, a mother of three who recently gave birth to her youngest daughter in a camp for displaced people.
For more than an hour, artists and young children entertained the crowd at the launch event. Youth Peace Messenger Jonathan Mouhon, 11, took the microphone and declared children to be the future of Côte d’Ivoire to an audience which included government officials.
The celebration brought together people from all communities that only a few weeks ago were often against each other in inter-ethnic clashes or else caught up in fighting between opposing forces.
Special guests at the event were two famous Ivorian artists – singer Bamba Ami Sarah and stand-up comedian Koro Abou – who are sponsoring the campaign.
Targeting the vulnerable
There is much do be done in the aftermath of the violence. “In the wake of the conflict, health indicators are red and this campaign is a life-saver for children,” said UNICEF Designated Representative Hervé Ludovic de Lys. “Not only will it bring life-saving interventions to children in dire need, but we also hope that it will create a momentum for the resumption of the entire health system.”
The campaign is targeting more than 185,000 children under the age of five in four health districts where cases of measles have been confirmed. They are Duékoué, Guiglo, Danané in the west and Bouaflé in the centre of the country.
These areas were among those most affected by recent fighting, leaving children especially vulnerable to disease. Measles can be a mild ailment in a healthy child, but if a child is malnourished, it can kill or permanently impair their nervous system. That is why the immunization campaign is also providing vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets to boost the immune system of children, and help combat malnutrition and water-borne diseases.
At an immunization point in Duékoué, UNICEF Health Specialists Cyrille Ziao and Morima Kone helped immunize the first child of the campaign and explained to the crowd and media the importance of vaccination.
A lifesaving package
UNICEF has funded and distributed more than 213,000 doses of the measles vaccine, syringes, and other key supplies. It is also supporting the training of about 850 vaccinators, health personnel and volunteers who will administer the vaccine to children in health centres in camps for displaced people and remote villages.
“By providing life-saving interventions to all people with no distinction, humanitarian aid can play a key role in promoting a sense of normalcy by fostering the resumption of key basic services such as health, water and schools,” said Mr. de Lys. “This six-day immunization drive is essential to prevent the spread of measles in the country.”