Working Together in Strengthening Immunization and Health Systems in Myanmar
Yangon, Myanmar, 4 April 2013: The first round of polio immunization campaign aiming to cover 370,000 under five children was carried out from 26 to 30 April 2013 in 12 conflicts affected Townships in Rakhine State.
The campaign was spearheaded by the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF and WHO. Government health staff were complemented by Myanmar Health Assistant Association (MHAA) and local INGOs and NGOs in implementation of the campaign. UNICEF noted that in spite of tensions, both Rakhine ethnics and Rohingya communities welcomed the campaign overall. An evaluation of the first round will allow partners to discuss issues relating to targeting and pockets of resistance to immunization among some families .
In some areas, the campaign was extended by a day or two by the State Health Department as catch up day in Sittwe and in Pauktaw for 31 March 2013 and 1 April 2013. The first reports indicate a high coverage of 95.7 per cent in 12 Townships.
In the following days, an analysis will be done to identify the lessons learnt on logistics, training, location and master lists of target populations from the campaign, in order to improve the second round of the campaign scheduled in April.
Partnership in Health System Strengthening
A week-long long Cold Chain Logistic Strategic Planning workshop is taking place in Nay Pyi Taw this week to identify the necessary strategies, actions and commitments from the Ministry to respond to the immunization challenges in the coming years.
For decades, UNICEF has been a long standing partner, working closely with the Ministry of Health in supporting its programmes at policy, technical and operational levels. UNICEF supported the Ministry for the introduction of the Pentavalent vaccine through an Effective Vaccine Management Review (EVM) which was undertaken in 2011.
This has led to the successful introduction of Pentavalent vaccine (at a cost of about US$ 50 million for 5 years) and down the line further expansion of the EPI antigens to also rota virus and pneumococcus vaccines.
As these vaccines are introduced, the quality of the cold chain and logistic system in country becomes more important to protect the efficacy of the vaccines in view of the increasing investments. Right from the arrival, from the Central Cold Room, up to the sub township levels, it is important to ensure that the cold chain is maintained and functional so that all midwives can easily access all vaccines at all times.
Within the Ministry's efforts to strengthen the national health system, the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) remains very much at the core of the preventive health services and, providing low cost but high benefit and highly equitable results.
Health System Strengthening covers all the building blocks of the Health System, including a comprehensive supply chain management review and planning, which needs to take into account the Essential Drug management, including vaccines, reproductive health commodities, anti-HIV drugs, diagnostic commodities and investment and maintenance in cold chain.
“Expanded Programmes of Immunisation are usually good proxy of the performance of public health systems overall. They are also among the most important illustrations of governments’ commitments to equity, to reaching out each and every child through preventable disease interventions” said Mr Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar.
UNICEF Myanmar hopes that such a strategy will help the Government prioritise its resources and actions, and protect the needed investment in immunization in the Government budget. UNICEF along with partners is committed to work with the Government towards gradual sustainability of the EPI in Myanmar, including through continuous assistance in building logistics, management and supervision capacity.