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NAIROBI, Kenya, June 26, 2021/APO Group/ -- 

An urgent measles and rubella (MR) vaccination campaign was launched today in Kajiado County by the Government of Kenya, with support of World Health Organization, WHO, UNICEF, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The campaign, which will be conducted from 26 June to 5 July, aims to vaccinate 3.9 million children aged 9 months to 5 years, in 22 counties across Kenya.

The MR campaign is now underway in the counties of: Baringo, Bomet, Bungoma, Elgeyo, Garissa, Homabay, Kakamega, Kilifi, Kisii, Kisumu, Mandera, Marakwet, Migori, Nairobi, Narok, Samburu, Tana River, Trans Nzoia, Turkana, Vihiga, Wajir and West Pokot. The target counties were selected based on high numbers of unimmunized children and reported measles outbreaks.

“The Government of Kenya has always prioritized the health of the people and that is why we are taking this urgent action to protect children from measles and rubella,” Chief Administrative Secretary for Health, Dr Mercy Mwangangi said. “Children are a blessing from God and therefore there is no reason for them to suffer and die from preventable diseases. The vaccines are available free of charge and I urge all parents to ensure their children are vaccinated in order to protect them from these diseases.”

As part of the campaign, MR vaccines will be administered to children in health facilities, with mobile teams also providing vaccination in preschools, marketplaces, churches and other designated places on specific days. UNICEF has procured and delivered the vaccines and is supporting the mobilization of caregivers and communities. Mobile company AirTel is providing support through mass text messages, to raise awareness among parents in the target counties.

“All children have the right to access life-saving health care. Last year, routine health services including immunization were disrupted by the impact of COVID-19,” said UNICEF Representative to Kenya Maniza Zaman. “UNICEF is working hard to ensure that young and vulnerable children are vaccinated against measles and rubella. Children under five-years-old can die from measles complications and if the virus circulation is not stopped, their risk of exposure increases daily. We know that vaccination is by far the best way to keep these children safe.”

Since 2016, the MR vaccine has been offered as part of the routine childhood immunization programme in Kenya, with one dose administered at nine months and the second dose at 18 months. To ensure adequate protection in communities, it is important that at least 95 per cent of children receive the two recommended doses. In 2020, only 85 percent of children in Kenya have received the first dose and less than 50 percent have had the second dose.

“This mass vaccination will provide an opportunity for all who missed their vaccines to get it and a supplemental dose for those who received their previous dose to boost their immunity,” WHO Representative to Kenya Dr Rudi Eggers said. “Vaccination against measles will protect children from this debilitating disease which is one of the leading causes of death among children less than five years old. Vaccination saves lives, protects against diseases and ensures that children are healthy and thus do well in school and later on in life." No child should suffer measles or die from measles or other vaccine preventable diseases while there is an effective vaccine that is made available by the Government of Kenya."

Globally, reported measles cases fell from over 850,000 in 2000 to 132,000 in 2016, largely due to increased vaccine coverage in low and middle-income countries. However, in recent years global cases have surged dramatically. In 2018, there were nearly 360,000 cases recorded worldwide, while measles deaths climbed 50 percent from 2016 to 2019, claiming over 207,500 lives in 2019, according to data from WHO.

 

Uganda sent the police to chase vendors selling merchandise in Kampala despite a Covid-19 stay home orders given by the President.

Last Friday, authorities in Uganda declared a 42-day lockdown, following a surge in cases. But some residents have been sneaking into the city to make a living.

Over 200 people were arrested as they went about their business activities in the city centre.

"Part of the guidelines was to make sure that hawkers and people who are selling on the roadside are not doing that business, but unfortunately we found many of them doing that and over 200 have been arrested," said Kampala police spokesman Luke Owoyesigire.

Only pharmacies, supermarkets and other stores selling essential goods are allowed to open, according to the new measures.

Public transport is also suspended, with only cargo truckers and flights exempted from the ban.

The east African country has not announced any social protection plan for its poor and those rendered jobless by the new measures.

"We are moving because we have nothing to eat, but what if we have something to eat? We could not be arrested. We’re arrested because we have been just moving, selling to get something to eat," said Musa Kalyango, a 30-year-old street vendor.

Police have been given orders to arrest and seize goods belonging to vendors.

Uganda's security forces have been accused of high-handedness during the enforcement of lockdown orders. Two people are known to have been killed by police officers overseeing a ban on inter-district travel.

Activists have accused the government of botching its response to the pandemic.

Uganda borrowed nearly a billion dollars last year for Covid-19 response but an audit revealed that millions were stolen or irregularly spent. - Africanews

The entrance to the Ugandan parliament. Photo Nation Media Group

 

More than 200 workers in the Ugandan parliament, who include MPs, have tested positive for Covid-19 in the last three weeks.

The news come amid fears that their drivers and relatives could be carrying a contagious variant of the virus that has killed more than 700 people in the country.

Sources told the Daily Monitor that the last three tests in parliament returned high prevalence rates and that “there are positive cases every other day”.

State House and the Ministry of Health conducted the last three tests and communicated results to the authorities in Parliament.

All the affected MPs and staff were also ordered to self-isolate and seek treatment as a matter of urgency.

Due to the high prevalence of Covid-19 in Parliament, MPs and staff who were not feeling well were referred to Makerere University Hospital for tests. Others had the tests done at an undisclosed laboratory in Butabika.

Worst hit

Some of the worst hit departments in the Ugandan parliament are Procurement, Finance, Information and Communications Technology and the office of Sergeant at Arms.

To avert what sources called “a catastrophe in the House”, Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, who is currently “working from home”, instructed Ms Jane Kibirige, the parliamentary clerk, to shut down the House for two weeks. 

The deputy Clerk in-charge of Corporate Affairs, Mr Henry Wasswa Yoweri, wrote to MPs about the planned closure of parliament for two weeks effective June 28.

“Parliament of Uganda like the rest of the country has been affected by the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic with a positivity rate of 17.1 per cent,” Mr Wasswa wrote.

Close parliament

“As a mitigating measure to the prevention of the Covid-19 infection, the administration of parliament in consultation with the office of the Speaker is closing Parliament to Hon Members of Parliament for a period of two weeks in order to disinfect the parliamentary buildings,” he added.

Mr Wasswa wrote the letter on behalf of Ms Kibirige who is in self-isolation after she got into contact with undisclosed sick MPs and staff.

After receiving news about the widespread infections in parliament, on June 11, the General Counsel to Parliament, Mr Pius Biribonwoha, wrote a letter on behalf of Ms Kibirige, issuing stringent measures to prevent, mitigate and protect the parliamentary community from the spread of Covid-19.

“We have received reports of increasing numbers of infected persons in our parliamentary community within the last three weeks. As a result, and in consultation with the Rt. Hon Speaker of Parliament, we have been advised to immediately adopt and implement the following measures to mitigate further spread of Covid-19 within the precincts of Parliament,” Mr Biribonwoha wrote.

Key measures taken

Some of the key measures include scaling down of the number of staff that operate from the office premises with immediate effect. All heads of department have also been instructed to draw up new work schedules and ensure 20 per cent office presence, while 80 per cent of the staff will work from home for the next 42 days.

“This is a measure to decongest the parliamentary precincts and to ensure safety of the parliamentary community,” Mr Biribonwoha explained.

Sources told Daily Monitor that the new work schedules were submitted to the authorities on June 14.

Authorities in parliament also instructed strict observance of correct wearing of face masks at all times, handwashing or sanitising regularly, social distancing, getting Covid-19 vaccination and having body temperature checked at the designated entry points. 

They also ordered staff and MPs to stay away if they are feeling unwell or have flu or cough or suspect exposure, and immediately take a Covid-19 test.

Disciplinary action

Mr Biribonwoha informed heads of departments that any breach of the Covid-19 measures could lead to disciplinary action.

The parliamentary staff and MPs were also informed that in case they tested positive for Covid-19, treatment is covered by all insurance companies contracted by the Parliamentary Commission.

Mr Biribonwoha had also instructed parliamentary police to restrict access to Parliament by MPs and members of staff.

The news about the rising infections among MPs comes at a time when the country is battling the second wave of a pandemic that has cumulatively killed 714 people. 

On Sunday, the government confirmed the deaths of 34 people in a single day and 722 new cases. This brought the total cumulative confirmed cases to 73,401.   The national positivity rate stood at 17.4 per cent, according to the June 20 Ministry of Health statistics.

To mitigate the spread of the virus, President Yoweri Museveni on Friday announced a 42-day nationwide lockdown. 

The 234 deaths registered in the last one month compelled the President to declare a total lockdown, six months after authorities had promised a gradual phased re-opening of the economy.

Between May 18 and June 18, Uganda recorded 25,685 new infections. - Daily Monitor

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