Children in Tacloban - the city hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan - were today vaccinated against measles and polio in the first phase of a mass campaign by the Government of the Philippines with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other partners. They also received Vitamin A supplements to help improve their immunity against infections.
Over 30,000 children are expected to be reached by the campaign which is taking place at fixed sites in evacuation centres and in communities using mobile health teams.
The vaccination drive in Tacloban is the first phase of a campaign targeting children aged less than five years in all the typhoon-affected areas. Fifteen teams (10 foreign and 5 national) including volunteers from the Department of Health, the Philippines Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations, were in locations across Tacloban giving vaccines today. The first to receive them were children in 20 evacuation centres-such as San Jose Elementary School, where more than 300 families currently live in conditions that can heighten the risk of infectious diseases.
"The children of Tacloban need all the protection they can get right now," says Angela Kearney, UNICEF Coordinator for the Emergency Response in Tacloban. "Disease is a silent predator, but we know how to prevent it and we will do everything that we can."
At government’s request, UNICEF purchased over US$2 million worth of vaccines to replenish in-country stocks now being used for the campaign. In addition, UNICEF and WHO are helping to re-establish the broken cold chain, which is critical in keeping vaccines at the right temperature.
"WHO staff hand-carried supplies from Manila to Tacloban, coordinated teams to give the vaccines and trained them on how to do it under these difficult circumstances. It is virtually unprecedented that within two and a half weeks of a disaster of this scale, with this level of devastation and these logistical challenges, that a mass vaccination campaign is already rolling out," says Dr. Julie Hall, WHO Representative in the Philippines.
During the campaign children being immunized are also screened for malnutrition by measuring their mid-upper arm circumference which will indicate if they are undernourished and require referral for treatment.
Notes for editors:
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