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Zimbabwean Prime Minister Tsvangirai to Promote Measles Immunization Campaign

More than 300 children have died as more than 3-thousand have contracted measles since the end of last year, affecting most of the country’s 62 districts. Measles weakens the immune system, and can lead to the development of secondary illnesses such as pneumonia, doctors say

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai will join the national campaign to convince members Apostolic Faith sect members to have their children immunized against measles and other preventable childhood diseases in a nationwide vaccination drive that authorities hope will stop outbreaks that have killed hundreds of children.

Some 3,000 children have contracted measles and more than 300 have died of measles-related complications such as pneumonia since September 2009 say health authorities. Most of the country's 62 districts have been hit.

The May 24-June 2 drive will target 5 million children between the ages of six months and 14 years of age.

The United Nations Children’s Fund or UNICEF says plans are well advanced to launch the drive next week. It urges parents to visit immunization centres and local clinics for more information on getting vaccinations.

Mr. Tsvangirai's spokesman, James Maridadi, said the prime minister decided to personally involve himself because of the inordinate number of Zimbabwean children who have been unnecessarily dying of measles.

Mr. Tsvangirai has called a "summit" on immunization later this week.