Somalia, 9 June: In remote communities, Child Health Days bring life-saving services to women and children
By Iman Morooka
BOROMA, Somalia, 9 June 2010 – Among the many mothers who came with their children to the Child Health Days campaign site, Abdi Ibrahim was one of very few fathers to be seen. He came early in the morning with his 16-month-old daughter, Sahra, to make sure she is vaccinated against preventable diseases.
There are no primary health care facilities here in Hayaayabo village, located in a hilly area on the outskirts of Boroma town and close to the border with Ethiopia. Nonetheless, the Child Health Days initiative – supported by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) – is making it possible for children and women living in such underserved areas to receive free health interventions. While hundreds of thousands of Somalis have already been reached by previous rounds of the campaign, more work remains to be done.
Emerging from tragedy
Mr. Ibrahim came to know about the health services available to his daughter from the cars that went around with campaign banners and megaphones. “I was so happy to know that the team will come to our village,” he said. “I have been expecting them and I was one of the first ones to be at the site.”
The Child Health Days campaign offers immunization against the deadly measles virus. It also protects against polio, diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, screens the nutritional status of each child, and offers vitamin A supplementation, oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets. Women of child-bearing age are vaccinated against neonatal tetanus.
‘Life is very tough’
Mr. Ibrahim is originally from Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, but he became displaced in the early 1990s as violence tore through the city. After more than ten years, he returned to Mogadishu and opened a barber shop there, only to be caught in a conflict zone again. In 2006, after Mr. Ibrahim’s sister was injured in the fighting, the family was forced to flee Mogadishu again – and has not returned since.
Mr. Ibrahim now lives with his pregnant wife and four children in a hut made of old pieces of rags in Hayaayabo village, in the north-west of the country. “Peace is the only thing that is good about living here now,” he said of the impoverished village. “Otherwise life is very tough.”
A lifeline for children
In Hayaayabo and other villages outside the reach of Somalia’s all-too-limited health infrastructure, the Child Health Days campaign is offering a lifeline for children – and their parents.
The massive initiative is targeting more than 1.6 million children under five and 1.8 million women of child-bearing age across Somalia. It is repeated every six months to ensure the maximum positive impact on child survival. Child Health Days in Somalia is supported by contributions from UNICEF and WHO partners, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the UK Department for International Development, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations and the Governments of Japan, Denmark and Norway, as well as US Fund for UNICEF and the Italian and Danish National Committees for UNICEF.
High resolution photos available on demand. Please contact Iman Morooka, firstname.lastname@example.org
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