Unprecedented health campaign launched in Togo

Published: 14 December 2004 0:00 CET

Marko Kokic in Lome

A major integrated health campaign was launched on Monday by the Togolese Minister of Health, Suzanne Assouma Aho.

During the week-long campaign 900,000 children under the age of five will be vaccinated against both measles and polio, a further 600,000 between ages two and five will be given de-worming medication, and finally a total of 900,000 thousand insecticide treated bed nets (ITNs) will be distributed – one for every household with children under five in Togo.

“This is a great event which has required the work of thousands of volunteers and many partners combining their efforts to ensure the well being of children,” Assouma Aho said during a public address at the Tolkoin University Hospital in Lomé.

“I invite the whole population to not only pass the message along but to fully embrace this campaign to help protect every child from disease. We hope that this is but a first of several health campaigns that will spread throughout the sub-region,” she added.

Some 30 partners have been involved in the campaign, ranging from United Nations agencies and international corporations to civil society and government.

“I am very impressed today to see how far partnerships have worked when we all commit to reach the same goal, to improve the health of vulnerable children in Togo,” said the head of the International Federation`s Africa Department, Richard Hunlede, who was also at the launch.

“Once again we see the important role the Red Cross has in addressing public health issues. Through its wide network of volunteers, children will be reached in the farthest corners of the country,” he added.

For several months, some 7,400 volunteers from the Togolese Red Cross (CRT) have been raising awareness about the campaign. They have been going door-to-door telling mothers about the importance of the vaccinations and the bed nets.

They will also be active after the campaign, ensuring that the nets are being used correctly and monitoring any births and new arrivals in their communities, to ensure that all children benefit from these life-saving interventions.

“The importance of this campaign demonstrates the partnerships that are possible between the Togo Red Cross Society, the Ministry of Health and other partners in addressing public health issues,” said CRT President Norbert Gagno Paniah.

“From the outset we have been involved the planning and coordination that has culminated in today’s launch. The social mobilization undertaken by our volunteers will ensure the success of this campaign. I would like to thank and congratulate them for their tireless efforts,” he said.

Since the Measles Initiative started in 2001, there has been a remarkable 47 per cent drop in measles mortality in Africa, and by 2005, some 200 million children across the continent will have been vaccinated against the disease.

In 2002, the American Red Cross and International Federation advocated for life-saving health interventions to be incorporated to take advantage of what is a major logistical undertaking.

Using the platform of measles immunization, and ITN can be delivered to a child for less than $0.50. Even so, an integrated health intervention requires considerable funding, and many organisations are supporting the Togo campaign.

In addition to the traditional Measles Initiative collaborators, other partners include the Togo Red Cross and the Togolese Ministry of Health, the Canadian, Norwegian, and New Zealand Red Cross Societies, the Canadian and Norwegian government development agencies, the International Federation Foundation Board and private sector partners including DHL, Vestergaard-Frandsen and Air France.

The Togo campaign is part of wider efforts to dramatically reduce measles deaths in Africa. The Measles Initiative partners include the American Red Cross, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the UN Foundation and the International Federation.