World Immunization Week: Kenya makes great strides in saving children’s lives
By Daisy Serem
NAIROBI, Kenya, 7 May 2013: Jacinta Wambui is the proud mother of a happy and healthy five month old son, Paul Mwendwa. As her first born child, Jacinta is doing all that she can to ensure her baby remains healthy, especially through routine immunization.
Some years back, this young mother witnessed the deadly effects of polio when a neighbour’s child was infected and consequently disabled. She has vowed to ensure that young Paul is not exposed to such life-threatening diseases that can be prevented through vaccines.
“When I got this child, I was told that he must be immunized to prevent diseases that kill small children. So I started going to the clinic for routine immunization since he was 6 weeks old,” says the doting mother. “This is his fifth visit and they will also take his measurements to make sure he is growing well.”
At the launch of the World Immunization Week in Makadara Health Centre in Na irobi, Jacinta and other parents gathered with their children for a free immunization clinic. The week underscores the importance of immunization in saving lives and encourages families to vaccinate their children from deadly and disabling diseases. The theme of the week ‘Save lives, Prevent Disabilities. Vaccinate’ carried the message home to every mother and father.
Kenya has made great strides in its vaccination efforts with more and more parents and caregivers ensuring that their children are fully immunized and protected from killer diseases. Kenya’s Ministry of Health reports that last year 83 per cent of infants born in the country were fully vaccinated by their first birthday – this is 1,079,000 infants. However, there still remain 220,000 babies who are unreached.
Dr. Sam Ochola the Provincial Director of Public Health and Sanitation says, “We need to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 and it is important that we spare no efforts in all our commitments. All the people of good will, including our politicians must be brought on board, because we are not there yet. We still need to do more in terms of high impact intervention and maternal survival in the country.”
Partnering to deliver results for childrenAt the Makadara Health Centre, stakeholders from the health sector came together to show their commitment and partnership in delivering results for children. UNICEF together with the World Health Organization, and other partners such as Rotary International and Lions Group, have joined hands with the Government of Kenya to save lives through immunization.
Through skits and music, those who attended the launch were entertained with a clear message on the importance of immunization. Guests were encouraged to spread the message and create awareness on these lifesaving interventions so as to eliminate all vaccine preventable diseases in Kenya.
UNICEF Kenya Resident Representative, Kanyankore Marcel Rudasingwa, appealed to families and communities to do the right thing and fully immunize their children. “Many people do not realize just how much a miracle, immunization is. It remains one of the most successful life-saving public health interventions.”
For mothers like Jacinta, ensuring full immunization of her son is a responsibility she gladly takes on to ensure he is a protected and healthy child.