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Nigeria Launches Massive Measles Vaccination Campaign

In Nigeria, more than 30 million children have been targeted for vaccination against measles and other diseases. The vaccination campaign in 17 southern states is aimed at reducing child mortality.

More than 100,000 health workers will be traveling across southern Nigeria over the coming days to vaccinate children between nine months and 15 years, against measles and other diseases.

About 28 million doses of oral polio vaccine and vitamin A also will be administered to children under five years during the seven-day campaign. The government has provided 35-million measles vaccines.

Hajia Wosilat Giwa, is the spokeswoman for the National Program on Immunization, which organized the project. "So, people are really looking out for this campaign, because measles immunization is what every parent looks forward to, for the protection of her child against measles," she said. "For this campaign in the southern states, we are targeting children of nine-months to 15-years, and a total of 31,508,955 children."

Measles is endemic in Nigeria, and a major cause of childhood illness and death. Reliable statistics are not available, but health experts say several thousand children die every year from the disease.

The Nigerian government has provided $13 million for the project. Substantial support has also come from international partners, such as the World Health Organization, the U.S. Agency for International Development, Rotary International and the Red Cross.

Giwa says the Nigerian government is committed to eradicating the disease from Africa's most populous country.

"Measles is still one of the major causes of death among children in Africa," she added. "It, therefore, becomes important that, if we want to achieve the Millennium Development Goal, to ensure that every child has a right to good health, then measles will be one of the target diseases to be eradicated, or at least controlled. We embarked on a similar campaign in the northern states last year. But because the campaign is on such a large scale, we had to divide it [the country] into two. We took the northern states in December last year and it was a very successful campaign."

Measles causes high fever, rash, cough and runny nose. In addition, it often causes serious health complications, including blindness, diarrhea and pneumonia. It mostly affects young children, but also young adults. Children usually do not die directly of measles, but from its complications, which attack their already weak immune systems.