Uganda, April 2014: Father Knows Best: Promoting Immunization in Kyegegwa District
By Monica Morello
April 2014, Kyegegwa District – Peter Kamara understands the importance of immunization if children are to live happy and healthy lives. “You have to invest a lot of effort in immunization,” he says.
Kamara, aged 50, has sixteen children and lives in Kibuye Parish, Kyegegwa District in western Uganda. He’s not only a father but a Local Council (LC) Chairman and leader in his community. Kamara is also a member of more community groups than he can recount, and he proudly displays his Kyegegwa Traders Association certificate on the wall at his home. But there is one cause that is particularly important to him - immunization.
As a community leader, a father and an immunization advocate, Kamara mobilizes communities to ensure that all children complete their immunization schedules before they are one year of age. He also shares relevant information and key messages about immunization, including the importance of vaccinating children to save their lives.
“As part of our community mobilization efforts, we visit homes to promote immunization in the community,” Kamara says, “encouraging parents to take their children for immunization.”
However, this can sometimes be difficult especially when people have misconceptions about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. An example is, one local community which believes that if you immunize your child, he or she will pick up a disease. “It is a false belief,” says Kamara. He believes that in order to clear up these misconceptions, people must be educated and this he does during the door-to-door mobilization drives.
In a bid to ensure that no child is left out, Kamara also embarked on organizing monthly community meetings, where parents and caregivers are further sensitized about the benefits of immunization, provided with the immunization schedule, and given more information about vaccines. These efforts have earned him a lot of trust from the communities and increased their willingness to vaccinate their children.
Kamara recognizes the impact of immunization as a parent who wants to prevent his children from dying of vaccine-preventable diseases.
He mentions that through continuous sensitization and community mobilization, people become better informed about the benefits of immunization. But nothing speaks greater volumes than one parent telling another parent to go and immunize their children to keep them safe and healthy.
“My advice to all parents is to ensure all their children are immunized, because I have children and they are all immunized,” he says. “By focusing on prevention through vaccines, children do not have to die from diseases like measles,” Kamara concludes.
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