NewsAfricaRace against time to vaccinate against measles in Somalia

Race against time to vaccinate against measles in Somalia

Recently, a family experienced a triple tragedy in Somalia, caused by a preventable illness. In December 2022, the parents traveled with their four sick children from the city of Afgooye to the Banadir hospital, the country’s largest referral center, located in the capital, Mogadishu. The children had been diagnosed with measles. Two of them died, one was disabled for life, and one survived. None were vaccinated.

The interruption of vaccination campaigns caused by the coronavirus pandemic has left many children in Somalia unimmunized, some with fatal outcomes. According to the Immunization Alliance (Gavi), “the impact of covid-19 on critical day-to-day health activities and its knock-on effects on malnutrition have led to an alarming rise in measles cases and outbreaks across the world.” the world”.

Now that coronavirus cases have dropped, Gavi is racing against time to save more children from measles, which can cause death, blindness, deafness and permanent brain damage. If a woman contracts the disease while pregnant, she is at increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. There are also cases of premature births or low-weight babies. Gavi notes that she works “with governments, communities and other partners in a coordinated effort to bring measles vaccines to vulnerable children in low-income countries.” Its goal is to reach more than 85 million children in those countries between 2022 and the first half of 2023.

Big drop in vaccinations

The director of the Department of Family Health of the Federal Ministry of Health of Somalia, pediatrician Ubah Farah Ahmed, confirms that the coronavirus had serious consequences for vaccination campaigns against measles in the country. “During the height of the pandemic, between 2020 and 2021, there was a decline in childhood immunizations and vaccine acceptance,” she says.

Read Also:   Spain accepts asylum in second instance to two of the three stowaways from the Canary Islands

“The phenomenon was not unique to Somalia. It affected countries all over the world. Parents were afraid to take their children to health centers during the pandemic because they had been told to stay home to avoid contracting covid. Vaccination campaigns suffered major interruptions, which caused 10% fewer people to receive the vaccine, ”he adds.

Ubah Farah Ahmed, Director of the Family Health Department of Somalia’s Federal Ministry of Health.Shukri Mohamed Abdi (Bilan Media)

This percentage drop indicates the extent to which Somali immunization campaigns were affected by the health crisis. According to Gavi, data from 57 low-income countries show that, in them, the decline during the coronavirus wave was 4%, a figure much less dramatic than that of Somalia. Globally, in 2020, more than 23 million children did not receive essential vaccines, 3.7 million more than in 2019, according to a report by Unicef ​​Spain and the Political Watch platform.

Against the myths around vaccines

Abdiqadir Ibrahim Ali, deputy supervisor of the Banadir hospital’s Measles Department, says he did not see a significant increase in measles cases during the coronavirus pandemic. “It was the same as always,” he asserts. “Most of the cases we see in Babadir are children who have not been vaccinated. They often come from poor families or groups of internally displaced persons. Many parents do not know anything about the disease, nor about the existence and benefits of vaccination campaigns. Often, they do not take their children to be immunized against measles and other diseases”.

Read Also:   The Congolese Government calls for the expulsion of the spokesman for the UN mission in DRC

After seeing what has happened to her little girl, Hilowle recommends that other parents get their children vaccinated. “That will keep them healthy and protect them from disease,” she says. “Now I regret not having vaccinated my daughter. I have vaccinated my other children.

In many cases, such as parents who lost two of their children to measles and found another disabled for life, people do not believe in vaccines and mistakenly assume that they do more harm than good. Very rarely, a child can get measles after being vaccinated, but then the symptoms are usually milder.

Drought increases the risk of contracting the disease

Ubah Farah Ahmed of the Ministry of Health says the catastrophic drought is another factor behind the rise in measles cases. The most severe rainfall shortage in Somalia in 40 years has caused famine situations in some parts of the country.

Health experts say that improving vaccination campaigns against measles in places like Somalia can lead to a general strengthening of the health system.

“When children are malnourished, their immune systems are weakened,” explains Ahmed. “That makes them more vulnerable to many diseases, including measles.” People displaced by drought or too weak to travel to clinics are many, unable to bring their children to be vaccinated.

Read Also:   Irregular immigration falls to 2017 levels due to the control exercised by the African countries of origin

Conflicts interrupt vaccination campaigns

The pediatrician urges parents to vaccinate their children against measles and other diseases, and explains that there is no need to pay for the medicine.

“The Government has worked hard on immunization and has distributed vaccines in all public and private health centers that can be reached. There are calendars and schedules to vaccinate children. For measles prevention to be more effective, they have to take their children to be vaccinated twice.” Ahmed explains that Gavi has helped Somalia raise awareness about diseases and vaccines, and strengthen the country’s health system, badly damaged by more than three decades of violence, lack of security and conflict. “He helps us buy and store the vaccines by installing refrigerators in which they can be kept at the right temperature”, he argues.

Health experts say that improving vaccination campaigns against measles in places like Somalia can lead to a general strengthening of the health system. If a child is taken to a clinic to be vaccinated against measles, other routine immunizations and medical check-ups may be given. That helps save lives and increases the ability to detect and respond to outbreaks of diseases like measles, which can be prevented if enough children are immunized.

You can follow PLANETA FUTURO on Twitter, Facebook and instagramand here to our newsletter.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Posts

Read More