UNICEF launches emergency measles vaccination campaign in CAR

The United Nations Children's Fund and its partners announced on Tuesday the launch of an emergency immunization program against measles in the Central African Republic, estimated to reach some 125,000 children.

The campaign began on Wednesday and will last for five days in Bangui, the country's capital, where eight children tested positive for the measles last month.

"Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children," UNICEF Representative Souleymane Diabate said. "Mass violence and armed conflict in CAR has left millions of people without access to basic health care, with hundreds of thousands of children at risk from a disease that can spread rapidly amongst deprived communities."

Access to basic services has decreased in CAR since conflict began in December, leaving only 62 percent of children vaccinated against measles and many children in impoverished conditions. UNICEF acknowledged difficulty in implementing the initiative due to security challenges caused by the conflict.

"Wherever access permits, UNICEF is on the ground working with partners to deliver life-saving interventions," Diabate said. "Our immediate priorities are to provide emergency response in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and to protect children from violence, separation and recruitment into armed groups."

More than 246,000 vaccines were provided in Bangui last week to be administered to children. The initiative is made possible by companies such as easyJet airline, which donated 100,000 vaccines.

Since March 24, UNICEF has provided health care support for 141,000 people by donating supplies or providing direct emergency health services.