April 3, 2012, Hanoi /Geneva — The Red Cross is seeking help from international donors to stem the alarming rise in deaths among babies and pre-schoolers from Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).
The incidence of this usually mild disease has increased rapidly in Viet Nam over the past 12 months, with cases this year, at 15,218, already seven times higher than the same period last year. A virulent strain of the disease has also appeared which has claimed the lives of 11 children this year.
The virus’s symptoms include fever, blisters on the hands and feet, and sores in the mouth. There is no specific treatment for the disease but the risk of catching it is greatly reduced through good hygiene practices.
“Action is needed now to introduce improved hygiene practices in at-risk communities ahead of the usual two high seasons for the disease, in April-May and September-October,” the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent’s (IFRC) representative in Viet Nam, Bhupinder Tomar, says.
The Viet Nam Red Cross ran an effective public education campaign between August and December last year targetting parents and carers in five of the hardest-hit provinces. The intervention helped contribute to the reduction of HFMD cases in those areas.
To expand the campaign, the IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for more than 750,000 Swiss francs (USD 840,000/EUR 629,000).
The new campaign will target more than 752,255 people in 13 provinces, two in central Viet Nam and 11 in the south, namely An Giang, Ba Ria Vung Tau, Cau Mau, Dong Thap, Quang Ngai, Kien Giang, Soc Trang, Hau Giang, Can Tho, Ben Tre, Long An, Vinh Long, Da Nang.
The campaign will mobilise 2,700 experienced volunteers in door-to-door visits to homes and day care centres, as well as community information sessions. Mass communication messages will focus on regular hand washing and covering mouths when coughing or sneezing.
“We are specifically targeting informal day care centres, providing them with leaflets and posters, as well as soap to reinforce handwashing demonstrations. Many of the infected children come from families living in densely populated areas where housing and sanitation facilities are inadequate, and whose parents work long hours in industrial parks,” Mr Tomar says.
“It is vital that this disease be brought under control as its victims - small children - are some of the most vulnerable in our community,” Mr Tomar says. “Proper hygiene practices prevent a whole range of communicable diseases, so there could be untold long-term benefits to families.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 mil¬lion people each year through its 186 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
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