Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Measles Initiative funds largest measles campaign in history

12 June 2007

63 Million children to be immunized by March 2008

WHO / J.Vandelaer

ISLAMABAD, 12 June 2007 – The Government of Pakistan, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that they have received grants totalling more than 1.8 billion rupees (US$30 million) from the Measles Initiative to support the Government of Pakistan’s efforts to reduce measles morbidity and mortality.

Launched in 2001, the Measles Initiative—led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization—provides technical and financial support to governments on vaccination campaigns in all regions of the world.

The Government of Pakistan has under the Expanded Programme on Immunisation embarked upon a massive measles campaign to protect children against the disease. By March 2008, over 63 million children between 9 months and less than 13 years will be targeted for immunization against measles. Measles is still endemic in Pakistan and is a major cause of childhood illness and death. Every day, 58 children die from measles in Pakistan and an estimated 21,000 children die every year from measles and its complications.

Stressing the importance of Pakistan’s first ever mass measles campaign, Dr Rehan Hafiz, National Programme Manager, EPI highlighted that the measles campaign is a significant milestone in Pakistan’s efforts to ensure all children are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles.

“Governments at the Federal, Provincial and local level - are fully committed to strengthening routine immunization and measles control as a means of improving the health and wellbeing of the children of Pakistan, he added. “A safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine exists to protect our children from the suffering of measles. Through measles vaccination, we have the ability, the opportunity and the responsibility to protect our children from preventable diseases.”

The Federal Government in collaboration with provincial and local governments and partners has successfully concluded the first phase of this campaign to bring measles deaths to zero in Pakistan. The pilot campaign, which ran from 1-18 March in 4 districts (Mirpur, Mardan, Gujrat and Dadu) of the country, was a tremendous success, reaching 95% of all target children. The campaign, which will run in phases, will target more than 63 million children. The next phase will be launched in Balochistan on 2-18 July 2007.

The Measles Initiative funds will help WHO and UNICEF provide the vaccine, as well as technical and operational support to the Government of Pakistan. To date, the Measles Initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 372 million children helping to reduce measles deaths by more than 60% globally (compared to 1999).

"The Measles Initiative contribution will be instrumental in supporting the national efforts to reduce the burden of childhood measles in Pakistan”, said Martin Mogwanja, Representative, UNICEF Pakistan. “Every child in Pakistan has the right to grow up healthy. Thanks to the generous financial contribution of the Measles Initiative Pakistani children will be forever protected against this killer disease”.

Stressing the importance of Pakistan’s first ever mass measles campaign, WHO Representative, Dr Khalif Bile said that the measles campaign is a significant milestone in Pakistan’s efforts to ensure all children are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases. “A safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine exists to protect children from the suffering of measles. Through measles vaccination, we have the ability, the opportunity and the responsibility to protect the children of Pakistan from this deadly disease. Reaching every child aged 9 months to less than 13 years will be essential to ensuring measles deaths are reduced to zero.”

The campaign is led by the Ministry of Health of Pakistan and the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), provincial and district governments of Pakistan, together with UNICEF and WHO. The coalition also includes the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization), the United Nations Foundation and the American Red Cross.

For more information contact:

Hayatee Hasan
WHO, Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 2103
E-mail: hasanh@who.int

Jessica Malter
UNICEF, New York
Telephone: +1 212 326 7412
E-mail: jmalter@unicef.org

Michael Oko
American Red Cross, Washington DC
Telephone: +1 202 303 6820
E-mail: OkoM@usa.redcross.org

Steven Stewart
CDC, Atlanta
Telephone: +1 404-639-8327
E-mail: znc4@cdc.gov

Amy DiEls
UN Foundation, Washington DC
Telephone: +1 202 419 3230
E-mail: adielsi@unfoundation.org

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