Measles and malaria are the two biggest child killers in
Immunization campaigns can reach almost every child in poor countries, said Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO). Using them to deliver other life-saving interventions would be a major contribution towards achieving the millennium development goal for reducing child mortality.
More than $ 5.4 million has been spent on the campaign of which almost $ 790,000 has been raised by UNICEF and WHO, through the support of partners such as the UN Foundation, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Red Cross and the Canadian International Development Agency.
In addition, 2680 volunteers and 1910 vaccinators have been recruited to protect all children under five with the four life-saving interventions.
Despite improvements in routine immunization coverage, almost half of Togos children born since 2001 are still at risk from measles -- a completely preventable disease that affects more than 30 million children each year and kills more than 540,000 worldwide. It is hoped that by combining measles vaccination with the offer of a free mosquito net and other health interventions, many more children will be reached.
Yet in 2003, only 15 percent of Togolese children under five years of age slept under a mosquito net and barely 2 percent slept under a LLIN. To date, poverty has been the major barrier to net ownership. Even though the average price of a net is only about two to five US dollars, it is still beyond the reach of poor households.
UNICEF and WHO believe that cost should not be a barrier to making malaria interventions -- whether preventative or curative -- available to all young children and pregnant women.
Malaria remains the largest killer of children in
Public health multi-tasking has had remarkable success on a smaller scale, but has never yet been taken to a national level. In addition to a free LLIN and a measles vaccine,
The polio vaccine to protect against poliomyelitis, a highly contagious, incurable viral infection of the nervous system which can cause crippling paralysis or even death.
Deworming tablets to expel intestinal worms and ultimately lower the rate of parasites. Intestinal parasites are a significant cause of malnutrition, severe anemia, delayed puberty and problems with learning and memory.
Measles and malaria prevention and treatment along with these other interventions require the same health infrastructure and, more importantly, target the same vulnerable group -- children. By combining all four at one time, governments can save money and lives.
These health interventions complement each other perfectly, said Mrs. Aho Suzanne, minister of health,