“Vaccination makes our children live in a different and better world!”
Convincing caregivers on the importance of vaccination
Asmarech Tsegaw (30) lives in Machakel Woreda (District), East Gojjam Zone of Amhara region. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and her son. Asmarech’s youngest child, Wubidil Simachew, is a 9-month-old baby girl who is fully vaccinated. Asmarech is part of the 1 to 5 leaders in her kebele (sub-district) health development army network.
“Children born in the past used to get sick and die due to different diseases- lung diseases, diarrhea, TB, measles, and others. Although I am not that old, I witnessed many children suffering and dying of curable diseases,” witnessed Asmarech.
Asmarech delivered her two daughters at a nearby health centre, and both were fully vaccinated. She regrets that her son was not.
“I am very lucky that he is alive and healthy now, but he passed through so many difficulties that could have been prevented if I had been aware of the availability and importance of vaccines just like now,” says Asmarech.
Asmarech recalls that in the past, vaccines were given irregularly.
“In our village, children were getting vaccination irregularly. Health workers used to come once a month from far places walking on foot for over two hours to reach here. They used to make an announcement of specific sites of vaccination using a microphone, which might be far for some of the villagers to come and get their children vaccinated which required hours of travel. I remember this trend and I also heard about it from our elders,” said Asmarech.
With the availability of Girakidamin Health Centre and Health Post, Asmarech is now getting her youngest daughter vaccinated. This helped Asmarech and her community focus on other productive household and farm activities.
“In my generation, I witnessed many children suffering and dying of diseases. But now we are all keeping well. My daughter is happy, healthy, and active. This is because she is fully vaccinated at the right age,” said Asmarech comparing the past with the present.
In addition, Asmarech added that when she was pregnant with her last child, she had Antenatal care (ANC) at Girakidamin Health Centre. “When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, I had a regular follow-up in the health centre. The importance of delivery in a health facility and vaccination were among the many health issues the health workers have been counseling me on at that time. Based on their counseling, I delivered at the same health centre and their services were very welcoming. They treated me just like I am at home. The community mobilization and intensive health education by health extension workers and health development army are very useful to raise our knowledge about vaccination,” said Asmarech proudly.
As per the health workers’ advice, Asmarech’s daughter received her first vaccination immediately after birth and she is now fully vaccinated at a local nearby outreach site, which is just a 10-minute walk to her home. She is happy with the vaccination services provided to children in her community.
“We are now getting fast vaccination services and never faced a single cancelation of my daughter’s vaccination schedule due to a shortage of vaccines or the closure of a health facility. I also get support from my husband and relatives during the process,” said Asmarech.
Bizuwork Belay (cover photo) is a health extension worker in the Girakidamin Health Post. Bizuwork said that with quality vaccine management and cold chain, they are vaccinating all the eligible children in the community. Bizuwork thanked the health development armies, who were instrumental in reaching their communities with information on the benefits of vaccinating a child.
“Had it been without their arduous mobilization work that requires visiting each eligible household, let alone all children, we couldn’t have reached half of the eligible children,” Bizuwork said.
Mekuanint Anteneh is Head of Girakidamin Health Centre. According to Mekuanint, after many years of strong and continuous community mobilization and advocacy work done with community leaders, their community reached 100 per cent coverage for vaccination. Health service acceptance in general and vaccine acceptance particularly is very high- and that is the main reason they reached such coverage. With strong coordination and community mobilization, they are serving the people to their full potential and they do not have any challenges with vaccine availability.
Recognizing the strong need by the community and the burden it imposed on the public in general and on women and children in particular, UNICEF, with the funding of ETB 6,496,825 (US$129,703), donated by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is working with Amhara regional health bureau, Zonal health departments, Woreda health offices and with the community to reach all the eligible children with the vaccination programme. The funding is mainly used for immunization demand generation/ community mobilization and to monitor immunization activities at the district level. In addition, UNICEF is providing technical support for Zonal Health Department, Woreda Health Office, and health centres on community mobilization/demand creation, cold chain management, and planning immunization activities.
Asmarech is very happy about the service she received and the different circumstances that her children are living now as compared to her time as a child.
“’Yenesuma Alemnew’ said Asmarch in Amharic language which means that children nowadays are living in a different and better world.