Roughly half of a million kids in Nepal are due to be given emergency measles vaccines after surviving the earthquake that struck the region last month. Prior to the earthquake, about 90 percent of the children were vaccinated against measles, according to a UNICEF representative. The measles vaccines will be given as part of a vaccination program in cooperation with the Nepalese Ministry of Health and Population and the World Health Organization (WHO). The goal of the massive vaccination campaign in Nepal after the earthquake is to protect against measles outbreaks in the informal camps that are inhabited by the quake’s victims.
— UNICEF Nepal (@unicef_nepal) May 5, 2015
“Unless we act now, there is a real risk of it re-emerging as a major threat for children, a setback for all of our collective efforts,” Tomoo Hozumi, from UNICEF, said in a statement on Monday. Hozumi says that after an earthquake, lack of sanitation and proper shelter can cause diseases like measles to spread quickly.
“We fear it could spread very quickly in the often crowded conditions in the improvised camps where many children are living.”
One hurdle the vaccination campaign in Nepal will face, according to the UNICEF representative, is finding facilities to store the measles vaccines at the right temperature. The first kids to be given measles vaccines as part of the effort will be children under five-years-old living in makeshift shelters in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, and Lalitpur in Kathmandu Valley, according to the Star Online. After that, an additional 12 hard-hit districts will be covered.
The UNICEF representative said that the organization is also doing everything they can to provide clean water and sanitation to those suffering the worst in Nepal. According to the WHO, complications from measles can be avoided through good nutrition, drinking enough fluid and treating dehydration. In areas like current-day Nepal, children who come down with measles should also be given vitamin A supplementation, according to the WHO, can help prevent any eye damage or blindness and greatly reduce the risk of death from measles.
How about emergency medical aid, food and shelter for 500,000 people… http://t.co/aE9Uys3zRB
— Tyler Tolman (@TylerTolman) May 7, 2015
Nepal homes just over 28 million people as of the latest United Nations statistics in 2015. According to the Measles & Rubella Initiative, measles cases dropped from 4,823 cases in 2004 to only eight cases cases in 2013. A WHO press release on Thursday said that Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for South-East Asia, expressed great concern over the risk of many communicable diseases “in areas where hygiene and sanitation systems are disrupted,” especially because Nepal’s rainy season has arrived.
“We have a four-week window to preposition medical supplies in affected districts and strengthen the country’s water, sanitation and hygiene systems so as to shield it against the threat of disease outbreaks. These include water-borne and vector-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria, along with acute respiratory infections.”
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) May 3, 2015
As of Wednesday, half a million children in Nepal are living in crowded emergency camps with absolutely no sanitation, according to Udayavani. Kent Page, UNICEF Nepal’s emergency spokesperson, told AFP that these children are living with no shelter in many case, suffering from a lack of food and in poor physical condition. Food prices have soared, according to UNICEF. As the people in Nepal struggle with the disaster and aftermath caused by the magnitude-7.9 earthquake that struck on April 25, children barely have enough to eat.
“We cannot afford to buy enough food, because we don’t have any money,” Rita Danwar, who lost her home and belongings in the Nepal earthquake, said while children seek refuge under makeshift tents.
The measles vaccine used by UNICEF in vaccine programs like this is, according to its own literature, a single dose of measles rather than the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine used in more developed nations. The single dose measles vaccine is drastically less costly and eliminates the rare risks from shedding the rubella component or the mumps component in the combo vaccines.
[Photo via UNICEF/YouTube]