No mountain is too high to climb to give children a healthy life
A day with health workers
The northern Ethiopia conflict disrupted basic services. Consequently, many children miss out on life-saving immunization and become vulnerable to debilitating diseases. In early May, UNICEF, with support from USAID and, in collaboration with the Amhara region health bureau, ran a measles vaccination campaign in conflict-affected areas of the Waghimra Zone. The campaign focuses on children in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) sites and villages affected by conflict. Along with this campaign, children and pregnant women were also screened for their nutrition status. All this was possible with the dedication of health workers who travelled miles to reach children, climbing up mountains and walking down on difficult terrains. We spend a day with them and followed their great work for children.
Early morning, in Sekota Health Centre, Health Extension Worker Mariam Kegne collects a variety of vaccines. The next couple of days will be very busy for her as a measles vaccination campaign will be underway in conflict affected areas of the Waghimra Zone. She makes sure that all the essential items are ready before she heads to Mindikru IDP site where hundreds of women and children are waiting for her arrival.
Before Mariam reached to Mindikru, she needs to cross the rugged trains carrying her vaccine cold box. Many of the displaced children in Mindikru miss out on their vaccination because health facilities were not functional in conflict-affected areas.
Mariam herself is displaced by the conflict and stays in Sekota town. Despite all challenges she faced, she is committed to serving children and women. “We are vaccinating children for measles. Many children, either have missed some of their vaccination, or never been vaccinated at all. So, we address them,” she says. “We [health workers] are glad to provide the services here.”
While Mariam attends to children in Mindikru, another Health Extension Worker Misawey Abate climbs up the cliffs and walks down the difficult terrain to get to the mountainous village of Aba Yohannes, carrying her vaccine cold box. This is not an easy job, but she has no alternative. For months, health services were disrupted in Aba Yonannes because of the conflict.
Earlier that day, a member of the village administration, Alen Endalew, went around the neighbourhood announcing the upcoming vaccination campaign. “I go around and tell the community where the vaccination is happening. We cannot afford to miss any child. If there is an outbreak in the village, it will be a disaster,” he said. Soon after Alen’s announcement, the centre of the village courtyard became crowded with mothers and children.
“I am so happy that my child is vaccinated today,” says Zenaw Alemayehu holding her one-year-old daughter Mahlet Getu. Mahlet is being vaccinated for the first time. In normal circumstances, she would have gotten all the basic routine immunization. But that didn’t happen because of the service disruption.
The campaign also includes nutrition screening for children and pregnant women. A vitamin A supplementation is also given to children 6-59 months to support their rapid growth and help them combat infections.
A day well spent! Mariam returns unused vaccines in the cold storage at Sekota Health centre and heads home. She will be ready yet for another busy day next morning.