South Sudan crisis: Vaccinations help protect children in refugee camp
February 19, 2014 by Lizzy Ongoro
|IRC health staff administer measles vaccinations to children during a prevention campaign at the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya. Photo: Lizzy Ongoro/IRC|
By Lizzy Ongoro
KAKUMA, Kenya - In northern Kenya, the International Rescue Committee recently launched a major vaccination campaign for children living in the Kakuma refugee camp. Many of the camp residents are from South Sudan, with approximately 370 newcomers arriving daily.
The campaign, which occurred during the week of February 10 in collaboration with UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, targeted children up to age 15 for polio vaccines and children between six months to 15 years for the measles vaccines.
“We had targeted 50,000 children,” says Dr. Milhia Kader, who is leading IRC’s emergency response in the area. “In fact, we immunized a total of 62,509 children under 15.”
|More than 17,500 people have fled to Kakuma following recent violence in South Sudan, with approximately 370 more refugees arriving every day. The IRC has set up a new clinic in Kakuma to provide them with medical assistance. Photo: Lizzy Ongoro/IRC|
The initiative comes in the wake of a measles outbreak. Earlier this month, the IRC medical staff had attended 89 cases of measles, with one reported death—a one-year-old child who presented other complications.
“Of the 89 measles patients seen so far, 88 have been children under 15 years old,” explains Dr. Kader. “This is why carrying out the vaccination campaign has been so vital.”
Dr. Kader notes that measles can be deadly for malnourished children, and that the IRC is committed to protecting children from polio.