Qasim: We must reach all Somali children with vaccines

The Somalian government is committed to reaching all Somalian children with a new pentavalent vaccine to break the cycle of unnecessary deaths, UNICEF said on Tuesday.

During the recent launch of the vaccine, which protects against Haemophilus influenza type B, hepatitis B, tetanus, whooping cough and diphtheria, Somalian government representatives came out in support of the vaccine campaign. Minister for Human Development and Public Services Maryan Qasim said the introduction of the vaccine was historic in a country where 10 percent of children die before the age of five.

"As a government, we cannot rest until we reach all Somali children," Qasim said. "We are committed to reach every child in every corner of the country."

Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said that one of the top priorities was to improve the health of children and mothers in Somalia.

"The Somali child must get clean water and vaccinations-everything his rich counterpart elsewhere receives," President Mohamud said. "UNICEF, WHO and GAVI have been with Somalia for more than 20 years and have lost staff and property and faced threats and challenges to save Somali lives. On behalf of the Somali people and on my own behalf, I would like to say thank you very much."

Abdirahman Mohamed, the president of Puntland, a region of Somalia, recently launched the vaccine at the regional Ministry of Health where a band performed songs about the five-in-one vaccine.

"We can fight against the child killer diseases with vaccination," Mohamed said. "As the people have weapons to protect themselves, our body also needs protection, so vaccination can help our children to exist."

Dr. Lul Mohamed, the head of pediatrics at Benadir Hospital in Mogadishu, said the vaccine campaign will be successful if it can increase coverage.

"We need a strong awareness drive to tell mothers about the importance of the vaccine and to motivate them to come," Dr. Mohamed said. "That also requires a strong commitment from the government."