|© UNICEF Guinea-Bissau/ 2007|
|Women lining up to be vaccinated in Cantubel.|
By Sylvana Nzirorera
CANTUBEL, Guinea-Bissau, 31 August 2007 – In June 2007, UNICEF launched a national anti-tetanus campaign in Guinea-Bissau. Over 330,000 women of child-bearing age will be reached in three rounds of vaccinations. Many of them have never had a chance to receive a vaccine.
Nafi, 20, is seven months pregnant. She came to Cantubel for the vaccine because she hopes this will help her baby.
“A year ago, I lost my baby. He was a boy. He lived only for a day,” Nafi says. “This vaccine is a chance for me.”
Free mobile vaccinations
UNICEF fully funded this campaign by providing vaccine and training workers and supervisors. Free mobile vaccination teams reach women and children in their villages, preventing them from walking long distances.
The second round of vaccinations took place in July and was used to distribute Vitamin A supplementation and de-worming tablets to 85,000 children under five.
Encouraging pre-natal care
Fatoumata is a traditional midwife who assists between eight and twelve pregnant women in her neighbourhood per year. UNICEF has provided training for Fatoumata as well as many other traditional midwifes throughout the country.
“I am here to encourage women from my neighbourhood to take the vaccine,” Fatouma says. “I always try to have these mothers consult a doctor during their pregnancies. But it doesn’t work.”
Pregnant women often do not seek pre-natal care because they lack the money to do so. Others have to walk too far to reach health facilities and cannot afford transportation. The health centres are often lacking in resources and women are told to come back for iron or malaria pills because they are not available at the time of their visits.
“We have to go around a number of problems which prevent mothers and children from accessing health services they need,” says UNICEF Representative in Guinea-Bissau Jean Dricot.