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Somalia, 23 January 2015: Communication for Development work on polio in Puntland

UNICEF Somalia/2014/ Kyeyune
© UNICEF Somalia/2014/ Kyeyune
Ayan takes her son to be vaccinated against polio after being convinced of its importance by mobilizers.

January 2015 – In 2013 Somalia saw its first outbreak of polio in 6 years and a massive vaccination campaign followed mostly targeting children under five but also the under ten year olds and adults. However many Somalis do not understand the importance of vaccinations to prevent their children becoming sick or dying from preventable diseases. So UNICEF also uses a variety of means to inform families that the vaccinations can protect their children from diseases and that they are safe and effective. These include social mobilizers visiting homes and communities as well as messages on the radio and television, and drama.

Last year there were only 5 cases of polio – all in the north east region of Puntland. Social mobilizers have been out in force ensuring that all children are vaccinated and here are three stories from families in Israe, a village in Garowe district in Puntland.

Doubtful mother is convinced to have her children vaccinated

Ayan a mother of three was determined never to vaccinate her children again after her eldest fell ill shortly after being immunized. And that was the story she told the vaccinators and a team from the Health Ministry and UNICEF who came to see her during a vaccination campaign against polio and measles. “When I had my first child, I had him vaccinated and he fell sick shortly after. From that time, I decided that I would never have my children vaccinated,” she announced.

However the teams explained that the illness that the child got after the vaccination was not related to the injection. She was also told that the vaccines were halal and prevented diseases such as polio and measles which can lead to disability or death. Other mothers told her that their children never got ill after being vaccinated.

Ayan was finally convinced to have her children vaccinated. She was also advised take them to the Maternal and Child Health clinic for routine immunisation which she agreed to do. At the MCH she was advised to get Tetanus Toxoid vaccine – and said she had already received it. She promised to advise other mothers in the village to have their children vaccinated.

UNICEF Somalia/2014/Kyeyune
© UNICEF Somalia/2014/Kyeyune
Fahiro and her children

Single mother in northern Somalia is a keen advocate for vaccinations

Fahiro is a single mother with four children who makes ends meet by running a small shop and can scarcely afford medicine when her children become ill. Therefore she says that she always ensures her children’s vaccinations are up to date when there is a vaccination campaign.

“I trust the vaccinators because I know that the vaccines they give my children protect them from diseases like polio,” she says. “I have always made sure that my children get vaccinated from the time they are born. Whenever I hear an announcement on radio or from the social mobilisers, I tell my neighbours to let me know when they see the vaccinators. I never want to miss that opportunity.”

When the vaccinators visited the village in December for the latest vaccination campaign supported by UNICEF and WHO, Fahiro was in her shop. She did not wait for them to reach her house but collected her children and walked over to the vaccinators.

“I know because I have been told by the vaccination teams that visit my house that when the children get additional polio drops, their bodies will even be stronger and they will be able to fight diseases,” she said.

Last year there were five cases of polio in Puntland including one adult who died. In total there have been 199 cases, mostly children, in Somalia since the outbreak began in 2013.

Fahiro encourages mothers and caregivers to make sure their children are vaccinated every time there is an opportunity and also takes them to the Maternal and Child Health Clinic for routine vaccinations. She says she can see the benefits because her children never fall sick. “My children are always healthy and enjoy their childhood as they play with other children,” she says.

Grandmothers are urged to be advocates for vaccinations

UNICEF Somalia/2014/Kyeyune
© UNICEF Malawi/2014/Kyeyuneh
Fadima and her grandchildren after they were vaccinated against polio.

Fadima Mohammed Noor looks after her four grandchildren who are all under five. Although her family did not know about vaccinations when she was growing up – she is proud that she is now fully informed by the social mobilizers and the radio.

“In our day, you would never get such information from anywhere. No one would come to your house to tell you they had come to take care of your children so that they do not fall sick, she says. “I think our children are lucky that they have access to these services and they should not miss the opportunity to have their children vaccinated.”

Fadima lives with one of her daughters and when her daughter and the husband are away, she is the sole caregiver of the children. She is keen to have all of them vaccinated after hearing about the polio vaccination campaign on the radio.

“It is the role of grandparents, as caregivers of their grandchildren to take an active role in ensuring that they are vaccinated. Usually when people in our community see the vaccinators, they ask for food. However, caring for children is not only about feeding them and bathing them, but also protecting them from getting killer diseases like polio,” she says.

Fadima’s message to other grandmothers is that when they are advising their children on family matters they should also discuss the importance of vaccination.



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