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Speech by Ms. Amina Nur-Husein, Minister of Health, upon the launch of the National Measles and Rubella Vaccination Campaign and Vitamin A Supplementation Program


Ladies and Gentlemen!

It gives me a great pleasure and honor to welcome you all to this important event launching measles and rubella vaccination against viral-borne diseases among children and adults.

The immunization week is taking place at a unique time, when peace has prevailed and the burden of the unjust and unfair sanctions has been lifted from Eritrea! In here, I would like to congratulate you all!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

As you are all aware, vaccines are among the most cost-effective public health and clinical services interventions. They are also a core component of any preventive services package.

As you all know, childhood immunization programs provide a very high return on investment. But awareness of disease and completing prevention and treatment courses remain essential components for reducing infectious disease transmission.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

In recognition of the importance of vaccines, Eritrea has been working carefully to reduce the negative impact of vaccine-preventable diseases. We have policies and appropriate strategies to reduce morbidity and mortality and thereby increase productivity. This would directly and indirectly contribute to the economic development of the country.

In regard to immunization, the Expanding Program of Immunization is one of the successful programs in the country. We have 285 static immunization program sites, and 385 outreach sites. In addition to this, we conduct Sustainable Outreach Services (SOS) and Reach Every District (RED) immunization programs.

With these establishments in place and additional activities, we have been able to achieve over 95% coverage for six diseases for which we are at control stage, while we have practically eliminated two other diseases, namely poliomyelitis and both maternal and childhood tetanus.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Eritrea’s success in immunization has been globally recognized and repeatedly labeled as exceptional. The following are some of the global awards received by our Immunization Program, in witness of its achievements:

1. On October 19, 2009 Eritrea was awarded by GAVI Alliance in Hanoi, Vietnam for high and sustained immunization coverage.

2. On August 29, 2016; Eritrea received UNICEF’s award in recognition of exceptional achievement in improvement of effective utilization of stock management tools and indicators for action;

3. On September 8, 2018, Eritrea again received UNICEF’s award in recognition for its achievement in improving vaccine management in its national vaccine store.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Today’s launching of measles and rubella immunization is against measles and rubella. Although measles vaccination is already ongoing, it is proven that the provision of such vaccination combined with rubella vaccine is cost-effective and will also cover the diseases and their complications.

Measles and rubella are highly contagious viral diseases that are spread by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. Measles weakens the immune system of the body and often leads to serious complications that include blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea and severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia. In fact, most measles-related deaths are also caused by complications of these diseases.

Similarly, rubella is a mild viral infection that occurs most often in children and young adults manifested by rashes and lowgrade fever. Rubella infection during pregnancy can cause abortion or stillbirth, and may lead to multiple birth defects in newborns, including: blindness, deafness, and heart defects known as congenital rubella syndrome.

Ladies and Gentleman!

This campaign also includes vitamin A distribution to prevent and control vitamin A deficiencies, including xerophthalmia (dry eyes), night blindness, infertility, and delayed growth.

Ladies and Gentleman!

The introduction of measles and rubella in the routine immunization program will unquestionably reduce the morbidity and mortality of children. To this effect, the Ministry of Health of the State of Eritrea officially launches this vaccination as of today and, as usual, is committed to continue its routine immunization program that includes measles and rubella.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge all those who contributed to the success of this launching and all of our partners who are contributing to the achievement of our EPI program. I would also like to express our gratefulness to the following partners:

• Ministries and other Government organizations;

• National civil society organizations and other local partners;

• Development partners, such as UNICEF, the WHO, and others; • The Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI); and

• To all other participants of this important campaign. Last, but not least, I would also like to extend my thanks to all children and their parents, as without their full participation and commitment nothing would be successful and nothing would be worthwhile.

I thank you!

21 November 2018

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