New vaccine to protect i-Kiribati children from diarrhoea

Health officials say children in Kiribati will be better protected from a potentially fatal virus when the country introduces the rotavirus vaccine.

The Kiribati Ministry of Health and Medical Services has announced it is bringing in the vaccine as part of a comprehensive child survival package.

The vaccine helps to prevent severe and life-threatening diarrhoea among infants, and is being introduced across all provinces in Kiribati, with the backing of the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, and the World Health Organisation.

In the past five years Kiribati has experienced repeated diarrhoea outbreaks, many caused by rotavirus, leading to hospitalisation and even the deaths of young children.

UNICEF's Pacific representative, Dr Karen Allen, says rotavirus affects nearly every child under the age of five and globally is the leading cause of severe, dehydrating diarrhoea in infants.

She says UNICEF will provide support to Kiribati over the next three years to strengthen links between immunisation and existing programmes on nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene.