Kiribati: UN backs new vaccine to protect children from life-threatening diarrhoea

Photo: WHO

Photo: WHO

Kiribati, 5 August 2015 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are supporting a new vaccination campaign announced today by the Government of Kiribati to protect children from a potentially killer virus.

The rotavirus vaccine – which will help prevent severe and life-threatening diarrhoea among infants – is now part of routine immunizations which are part of a comprehensive child survival package.

In the past five years, the Pacific island nation has experienced repeated diarrhoea outbreaks, many caused by rotavirus, leading to hospitalization and even deaths of children under the age of five.

“Rotavirus affects nearly every child under the age of five years and globally is the leading cause of severe, dehydrating diarrhoea in infants. Introducing this vaccine will help to reduce the number of children in Kiribati dying from preventable illness,” UNICEF Pacific Representative Karen Allen said in a news release.

UNICEF will provide technical and financial support to the Kiribati Government for the next three years to strengthen links between immunization, especially the rotavirus vaccine, and existing programmes focused on nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, Dr. Allen noted.

In addition to the rotavirus vaccine, UNICEF pointed out that nearly 90 per cent of child deaths due to diarrhoea can be prevented with simple solutions. Breastfeeding provides vitamins and nutrients that help infants to avoid diarrhoeal disease and recover more quickly.

Good sanitation and hand washing with soap are other low-cost and highly effective ways to protect children from diarrhoea, the agency added.

The rotavirus vaccine, announced by the Kiribati Ministry of Health and Medical Services, will be introduced across all provinces in the country.