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Immunizations spark curiosity

Immunizations spark cu riosity
© 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 water."

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.





Child-Friendly Schools: Stories from Mozambique

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