Senegal Health Minister highlights key role of immunisation

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Vaccines play key role in Senegal's dramatic reduction in child mortality

Dr Coll Seck, Senegal Health Minister

Senegal's health minister Dr.Coll Seck during the 65th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. Source: GAVI/2012.

Geneva, 22 May 2012 - Senegal's health minister Dr.Coll Seck has highlighted immunisation and malaria control as the main reasons for her country's rapidly declining child mortality, recently highlighted by The Economist magazine as one of fastest reductions the world has ever witnessed.

“The diseases we are now preventing with immunisation were the biggest causes of death,” Dr Seck, said in an interview with GAVI on the sidelines of the 65th World Health Assembly.

Dr.Seck described a visit several years ago to a clinic where the beds were full of children with measles, pertussis, and diphtheria. “What I have seen is that these (clinics) are now closed,” she said.

Top performing country

According to The Economist, child mortality in Senegal has dropped 40 percent in just five years from 2005-2010. Senegal was the top performing country among 20 African countries highlighted in the report which concluded that some African countries are seeing child mortality rates fall faster than anywhere else in the world for at least 30 years. Senegal, Rwanda and Kenya have seen falls of more than eight percent a year since 2005, the Economist said.

Partnership is also very important if we want at country level to see things changing.

Dr.Coll Seck, Senegal Health Minister

“The main things have been immunisation and malaria control,” said Dr Seck.

GAVI vaccine support

Through the support of its partners, GAVI has been supporting Senegal to use the pentavalent vaccine since 2005, helping to protect Senegalese children against five diseases – diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and hepatitis B.

Through its direct funding for the Measles Initiative, GAVI has also been supporting measles immunisation in countries such as Senegal.

Dr Seck said she hoped to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine at the end of 2012 and would like to introduce the rotavirus vaccine too. The two vaccines help protect against two of the world’s top killers of children, pneumonia and severe diarrhoea.

Partnership

“For me we need a lot of political will,” Dr Seck said. “Partnership is also very important if we want at country level to see things changing."

Child mortality rates must drop an average 4.4% per year in order to reach Millennium Development Goal 4, the two thirds reduction in child mortality rates between 1990 and 2015.

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