Preventing measles outbreak in times of COVID-19 pandemic in Ethiopia

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The wereda 5, Nefase silk community and nurses taking part in fighting the latest measle outbreak by joining the vaccination campaign © UNICEFEthiopia/2020/NahomTesfaye

By Feven Getachew

In search of a better life, Daniel Dia and his wife Meselech Mandose came to Addis Ababa from the southern part of the country hoping to use make a living of his skills as a weaver. He settled in the outskirts of the capital city called Mender 5. As they strived to make ends meet and provide for their baby girl Mekdes, COVID-19 pandemic limited their opportunities to find buyers and generate income. Adding to the burden, their one-year-old baby, Mekdes, fell ill.

Sister Mekdes Tesfaye, 32, a health extension worker in Addis Ababa was made aware that in the area where Daniel lives reported illnesses of children.

“Both the woreda administration and the health facility received this information. We then set up a team and came to the neighborhood. Through the information we gathered from the parents who had lost their children, we confirmed that the disease was indeed measles. They were not aware though” shares Mekdes.

“The disease increasingly made my daughter suffer. I stopped working altogether because I couldn’t focus. I lost my appetite and kept worrying. I didn’t know where to go or what to do” shares Daniel as he remembers the challenging times.

During her home-to-home visits to the families in Mender 5, Mekdes met Daniel and was able to do an initial examination of their daughter.

“We met Daniel when we were doing home visits for COVID-19. When I entered their home, the mother was bathing her daughter. I noticed a deep wound on the child’s mouth” explains Sister Mekdes.

She then insisted for Daniel to seek medical help for his daughter at a nearby health center. After 10 long days of treatment, Daniel got his happy and healthy baby girl back.

Unfortunately, not all families in the area get a happy ending. Daniel’s brother-in-law, Mengistu lost his one-year-old daughter. By the time he got her to the hospital, it was sadly late.

Amid COVID-19, children are at higher risks to be affected by malnutrition, and other preventable diseases. To prevent such loss and heartache to parents, vaccines are vital for a healthy start for children.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Ethiopia, as the country is already facing challenging health environment such as malnutrition, yellow fever and measles outbreak. To mitigate the impact of the measles outbreak, the Government of Ethiopia launched a measles vaccination campaign on 30 June for 10 days reaching 14.3 million children of 9 -59 months of age.

With fundings from the United Kingdom, Irish and Swedish governments and the US Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF supplied personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to protect vaccinators from COVID-19.