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Health Ministry partners with NGOs for anti-measles campaign

By Shorena Labadze
Thursday, August 7
Georgians often use folk remedies to combat feared infections like the measles, but the ineffectiveness of the treatments can threaten the health of the sick.

In an effort to improve public health and avoid unnecessary illnesses, Georgia’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs has signed a memorandum with Georgia’s Red Cross Society on a public campaign to inform people in Kvemo Kartli province about the importance of timely vaccinations against the measles and the German measles.

“It’s very nice that Georgia’s Red Cross Society is our partner. This project is financed by UNICEF. I am glad Red Cross is also beside us in this wellbeing work for the population,” Health Minister Aleksandre Kvitashvili said.

Georgia’s Red Cross spokeswoman Nana Keniashvili thanked the Health Ministry for its role in supporting the public health campaign.

“300 volunteers from Red Cross Society will go door-to-door in Kvemo Kartli to popularize vaccinations among the residents. We hope the campaign will be successful,” Keniashvili said.

But a spokeswoman for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Maya Kurtsikidze, said the Red Cross jumped the gun in promoting the door-to-door campaign.

“The program begins on September 29. The Red Cross has almost nothing to do with the process,” she said. “They simply expressed their desire to volunteer and inform Kvemo Kartli residents about the importance of vaccinations. The project is carried out by UNICEF and the National Center for Disease Control.”

The Health Ministry is providing GEL 1.3 million for the program, UNICEF donating vaccines and covering other expenses.

Kurtsikidze says the World Health Organization is trying to weed out measles and the German measles in the region; the same program is underway in Azerbaijan and Armenia.

“According to scientific research there is great danger of an outbreak of the measles and the German measles in 2010. So the World Health Organization is taking steps so that the problem will be solved by that time,” Kurtsikidze said.

According to National Center for Disease Control representative Paata Imnadze, German measles is especially dangerous for pregnant women.

“If a pregnant woman faces a case of the German measles, it is extremely risky. It harms the fetus and may even lead to death,” Imnadze said.

As for the measles, in 2004 there were about 8 000 registered cases of people infected by the virus, causing nine deaths.

The dates scheduled for the vaccinations in Kvemo Kartli will be from September 29 until October 12. Approximately 185 000 people, aged 6-–7, will be vaccinated in all seven districts of Kvemo Kartli.

People who have experienced the measles or the German measles have their own stories to tell as well.

“The German measles isn’t as dangerous as the measles. When a child faces the measles, he often runs a high temperature and his health may worsen at any moment. It must be supervised very carefully,” said Marina Gotsadze, a kindergarten teacher, 55, once having faced the virus herself.

Some Georgians believe in myths about the measles, at times personifying them as invades who must not be angered: when a child catches the measles the house must remain absolutely quiet—arguing, shaving, drinking and slaughtering domestic animals is strictly forbidden. Any request made by the sick child must be accommodated, or the measles will become angry. The ritual adheres to the belief that the child must not receive injections.

Twenty-one days after the onset of the measles those close to the sick partake in a farewell ceremony for the measles by baking special kinds of little cakes, often red in color, and placing them at a crossroads.