|At a health post in Port-au-Prince’s Sylvio Cator Stadium, vaccinators immunize a child, held by his mother, during the first phase of a campaign to protect young children in the Haitian earthquake zone against measles, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.|
By Guy Hubbard
UNICEF and its partners in Haiti have just begun an immunization campaign targeting earthquake-affected children under the age of seven and their caregivers. UNICEF’s Guy Hubbard reports from the scene.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 3 February 2010 – Magalie grimaces as the needle pierces her skin, and her four-year-old son screams as it pierces his. Despite the pain, this needle has the potential to save both of their lives – and right now, their lives are precarious.
Magalie and her family live in a makeshift camp here in the Haitian capital. Along with hundreds of thousands of others, they’re being vaccinated against measles, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough in a massive immunization campaign launched this week.
|Health workers fill out immunization cards for parents of children reached in an immunization campaign that is initially targeting young Haitian quake survivors in makeshift camps for the displaced.|
‘I want them to survive’
Two of Magalie’s children died in the 12 January earthquake. She and her two surviving children were buried in the ruins of their home for 10 hours.
“I was cooking on the roof when the earthquake happened,” Magalie recalls. “I covered my two smallest children with my body, but my other two children were in the house and I couldn’t save them. I was only dug out of the rubble at three a.m.
“I came here to vaccinate my last two children,” she explains, “because I don’t want them to be sick. I want them to survive.”
|A girl sheds some tears after being vaccinated in the initial stage of a massive immunization drive launched by UNICEF and its partners in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.|
Risk of disease in camps
UNICEF, the Haitian Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and other partners have organized the immunization drive to reach those, like Magalie and her children, who survived the quake but are now living in cramped, makeshift camps.
Conditions in the camps are rife for the spread of disease. And while the campaign is mainly focused on protecting the health of young children, a number of vaccines are also available for older children and adults.
Patrick Dely, a Haitian medical student who has been studying in Cuba, returned to Haiti with a team of Cuban doctors to assist in the campaign “These vaccinations are important,” he says, “because after a disaster like this one in Haiti, the population is exposed to the risk of disease.”
|At Sylvio Cator Stadium in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, a little girl feels the pinch of an injection administered to protect her from potentially deadly but vaccine-preventable diseases.|
Fight for survival
The first phase of the immunization campaign kicked off at Sylvio Cator Stadium in downtown Port-au-Prince.
“A lot of people from displaced areas are coming into the football stadium, and it’s getting extremely congested,” notes UNICEF Senior Emergency Health Advisor Dr. Robin Nandy. “It’s also right in the middle of town, so there are displaced people all around it.”
Dr. Nandy says displaced families from the camps surrounding the stadium are being encouraged to bring in their children for vaccination. “Of course, we target the settlements, but we are not going to refuse vaccination to anybody who comes to the vaccination post,” he adds.
After its initial stage, the campaign will move on to other camps; then, it will be extended to other quake-affected areas of the country.
For Magalie and her children, and the many families like theirs who have lost everything, the fight for survival is not yet over. But with the continuing commitment and dedication of the international community – including UNICEF and its partners – their chances of making it through the emergency and rebuilding their lives are looking up.
2 February 2010: UNICEF Senior Communication Officer Kent Page discusses why it's important to move quickly to vaccinate Haiti's children against disease in the earthquake's aftermath.
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2 February 2010: Tour of a UNICEF tent warehouse for relief supplies in Haiti.
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Earthquake in Haiti