14 November 2005

Somalia: Thirteen Die of Measles in Awdal Region

Hargeysa — Thirteen people have died of measles over the last three weeks in the northern Awdal region of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, medical sources confirmed in the capital, Hargeysa, on Sunday.

"Since 23 October, 13 people - of whom eight were below 15 - died from measles in villages located on terrains and mountains in Zeilla district within Awdal region," said Abdirahman Jamaa, the regional medical officer.

"Twenty-three others in nearby areas, including Sheikhware, were diagnosed with measles symptoms," he added.

Ali Sheikh Omar, director of communicable disease control in Somaliland, said a team was being dispatched to the affected areas.

Jamaa said the deaths were confirmed when a medical team visited the affected areas last week, following complaints from the locals. The people in the region, he added, had never been vaccinated against measles because they were inaccessible.

Awil Haji Ali, the acting resident project officer for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), said a vaccination campaign was planned for 17 November.

The campaign, which would cover all six regions within Somaliland, will be launched in Awdal and Sahil regions and be followed by Togdheer and Sool. The campaign will reach Galbeed and Sanaag in December.

UNICEF, the UN World Health Organization and the Somaliland health ministry are organising the exercise.

"The objective is to reach at least 95 percent of the targeted population to eradicate measles in Somaliland. The target is children of nine months to under-15, irrespective of their immunisation and disease-history status," Ali said.

According to Somaliland officials, routine measles vaccination is available in local hospitals. The coverage of measles vaccination in the region, however, is insufficient to stop the spread of the disease, which is transmitted through person-to-person contact or through nasal and throat secretions.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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