Immunizations spark curiosity
© UNICEF Mozambique/2012/C.Bach
Is 7-year-old Antonia afraid of what is going to happen? “No,” she replies confidently. She takes another look at the syringe, and adds a quiet, “a little.” The long line of children is a potpourri of feelings: curiosity, fear and courage...
Cesar Pascoal Macitela is a health technician
from the local hospital, and comes weekly to
EPC 25 de Junho School in Chibuto district, Gaza
province. "I like coming here to work with the
children, they are sometimes afraid, sometimes
happy, sometimes funny; you never really know
in advance." All the children look straight at
the syringe when receiving the vaccine; today,
curiosity trumps fear.
There is a young boy in line who looks very
afraid, and when it is his turn to step forward, he
refuses. The children behind him start pushing,
but the boy has frozen and is close to tears. Mr.
Macitela pretends not to take notice, and moves
on to vaccinate the children behind him. "No, no,
it's okay, just let him wait, I will take him last,"
he quietly tells the teacher trying to push the boy
forward. "If he starts crying now we will have a
real problem." Mr. Macitela has done this for many
years, and has learned that if one child starts
crying, all of them might follow.
Dr. Yolanda Tedosio Mandlate accompanies
Mr. Macitela to the school, to check on health
standards. "We come weekly, to teach the children
about oral health and personal hygiene. We
vaccinate, make sure that the children wash their hands and evaluate the general standard of the
surroundings. I just checked the sanitation facilities
today, they are clean and there is running
Last year, teachers at the school were trained in
basic school health as a part of the Child-Friendly
Schools initiative's health programme. Leonora
Jose Jovo, a Grade 4 teacher, took part in the
training. "I learned how to identify the most
common diseases and how to prevent and handle
them. Now, I always remind my students about
mosquito nets, about brushing their teeth and
about washing their hands. Most importantly, I
know when I have to send them to the hospital for
professional attention," she says.
Dr. Mandlate recalls, "Yes, we taught them
a lot of things. One aspect that I think was very
important, and new for many teachers, was how
to identify mental health problems and make
sure that children receive professional support.
Children need understanding in order to solve
their problems, and mental health issues are not a
widely recognized condition here."
Mr. Macitela continues, highlighting the importance
of vaccines: "It is very important that they
receive this protection, this way, in order to grow
up and remain healthy." The children that he is
vaccinating are in Grades 1 and 2.
In November 2010, Mozambique proudly
joined the group of countries that have eliminated
maternal and neonatal tetanus. EPC 25 de Junho's
children are now also protected against the deadly
disease, and need only two more injections in the
coming months to complete the dose.