Polio, Vitamin A and Deworming: A National Campaign for Child Survival

Report
from UN Children's Fund
Published on 15 Mar 2013

"The three-day vaccination campaign, supported by UNICEF and WHO, targets close to 4 million children under the age of five across the country. Nomadic populations whose access to health services is often limited are among the priority targets. In Chad, 42% of children below one year are vaccinated with three doses of the pentavalent vaccine which protects them against five major diseases*.”

N'Djamena, March 15, 2013 - The Chadian Government, with the support of UNICEF, WHO and partners is launching a national immunization campaign against poliomyelitis combined with the Vitamin A supplementation and deworming for children under 5 years. The combined campaign that will run from March 15 through 17, 2013, aims to reach about 4 million children across the country, including nomadic children.

"The combined immunization campaign constitutes an important step forward for Chad in its agenda to accelerate child survival and development. These are two high-impact interventions to improve the nutritional status and health of children. Vitamin A supplementation offers the child a better chance of survival and lower risks of being infected by serious infectious diseases. Meanwhile, children who are dewormed have a better nutritional status, grow faster and develop better learning skills, "said Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Chad.

According to international studies including those conducted by the Lancet, the Vitamin A supplementation and deworming - if such interventions are systematically institutionalized every six months - can contribute to the reduction of a quarter (23%) of child mortality, half (50%) of measles related mortality and by 40% the mortality rate related to diarrhea.

More than 9,600 additional community workers have been mobilized across the country to ensure that all targeted children are reached including nomadic children. Estimated at 350,000 people –3.5% of the total population of Chad-nomadic populations are often difficult to reach with health services. In addition, the analysis of polio cases in Chad shows that nomadic children are disproportionately affected. It is an underserved segment of the population that has not been charted in detail before.

"The current campaign responds to a concern for equity. UNICEF is mandated to pay attention to the most vulnerable populations. We need to give every child the best start in life. UNICEF and its partners sought to provide help to these communities and develop strategies to find and immunize their children. This innovative effort with nomadic leaders begins to yield results in Chad. Even one case of polio is one too many," continues Bruno Maes.

Chad has made tremendous progress towards the eradication of polio. The country recorded only 5 cases of polio in 2012 compared to the 132 cases in 2011, showing a reduction of 95%. Thanks to the continued commitment by the government and its partners, the country is on its way to complete eradication.

“The campaign will help consolidate gains made in polio eradication in Chad, where no cases have been reported since June 2012,” stated Bruno Maes.

However, huge challenges remain to be addressed in a context where routine immunization services as well as the demand for these services remain very low. In Chad, the immunization coverage survey done by the Ministry of Health with support of WHO and UNICEF, in 2012 showed that 42% of children below one year have been immunized with three doses of the pentavalent vaccine which protects against five major diseases.

"While significant progress has been made in Chad, some fundamental concerns remain. There is still a significant number of unvaccinated or missed children during campaigns, the main reason being the absence of children. This is a concern in 8 of the 19 regions where the proportion of unvaccinated children has increased during supplementary immunization activities," concluded Bruno Maes.

The current campaign is in line with the Government's commitment to child survival. Chad, like many other countries in the world has joined the UNICEF global initiative: "Commitment to child survival: a promise renewed" whose objective is to reduce the mortality rate to below 20 per 1000 births in each country by 2035.

*Source: Enquête de couverture vaccinale au Tchad : Rapport finale Juin 2012.

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About A Promise Renewed

A UNICEF initiated, "A promise renewed" is a global movement for Child Survival, with partners who are committed to working together. Many governments, including Chad, are meeting with UNICEF to remind the world a promise, a promise that simply should not be forgotten, for child survival. The overall objective is to put an end to preventable child deaths. Intermediate objectives are to achieve MDGs 4 and 5 in 2015. In countries where the mortality rate is above 20 per under five 1,000 births, the goal is to reduce the mortality rate to 20 or less by 2035. http://www.apromiserenewed.org/

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org