Protecting children from deadly diseases

Vaccines save lives

By Azizullah Karimi
UNICEF Afghanistan/2019/S.Mohammadi
23 April 2019

Herat, Afghanistan, 23 April 2019 – In a tiny tent lies Farzana, a 25-year old woman with her two children, and a newborn son.  Barely sheltered from the dusty and cold weather, Farzana fled her hometown Bala Murghab, a district of Badghis province, due to intensified fighting and drought worsened by climate change.

“I had no choice but to leave my hometown with my two children, because of insecurities, and severe drought,” says Farzana.  “Our crops and livestock were dying because of lack of water.”

Due to the intensified fighting in Bala Murghab district, the local health service provider reduced their services.  In some areas, the health services were even halted completely. 

“We had no doctor in our village, we had to walk for six hours to reach the closest district clinic,” recalls Farzana.  “Some of the children in the village passed away en route to the clinic, before reaching a doctor.”

Since 2018, thousands of families from Badghis, Ghor and Farah provinces like Farzana left their homes due to intensified fighting, and severe drought.

Vaccines made possible

Thousands of families moved to internally displaced camps in nearby Herat province.  With partners, UNICEF is providing immunization services for all children under one year of age, and women of child-bearing age.

Mobile health workers in the IDP settlements
UNICEF Afghanistan/2019/Karimi

“I was worried about my son and daughter’s health, because they did not receive their vaccines,” says Farzana.  “Now, I am happy that all my children including myself received the needed vaccines, including my newborn baby who is only 25 days old.”

Farzana, while being illiterate, understands the importance of immunization in protecting children from vaccine preventable diseases.  Yet, in Afghanistan, and due to insecurities, coupled with limited awareness, and cultural beliefs, about half of the children under 12 months are either un-immunized or partially immunized.

“Since I gave birth to my new son, I knew the importance of vaccines,” says Farzana.  “Now I’m very happy, because he received his vaccines.”

As we mark World Immunization Week, Farzana’s story is a stark reminder for all mothers and caregivers to get their children vaccinated, and on a timely basis.

This year’s theme, together protected: vaccine works.  It is through vaccines that we can secure better health for all children in Afghanistan.