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Rwanda launches nationwide health and vaccination campaign

UNICEF Image: Rwanda, vaccination
© UNICEF Rwanda/2009/Williams
Mothers attend a launch of Rwanda’s third Mother and Child Health Week, which targeted 1.5 million children for vaccination in four days.

By Alexandra Williams

BISATE VILLAGE, Rwanda, 3 November 2009 – Bisate village is nestled in the lush valley at the foot of Mount Sabinyo – an extinct volcano that marks the intersection of the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. Gathered in a large playing field, hundreds of women dressed in colourful ‘kikoys’ of wrapped cloth are clutching rainbow-coloured umbrellas.

They are here to take part in the launch Rwanda's third Mother and Child Health Week, which was combined this year with a measles immunization campaign.

The highlight of the day is deeply moving testimony from a laboratory technician at the Bisate Health Centre, Jean Baptiste, 24, who enters the grassy stage area with great difficulty because he walks with crutches. Several minutes pass before he can take the microphone, but once there, he explains that when he was three, he contracted polio. He had not received vaccinations as a baby.

The disease wreaked havoc on his body, and since that time he has been living with a disability.

© UNICEF Rwanda/2009/Williams
In Bisate village, Jean Baptiste, 24, provides moving testimony on the advantages of vaccination.

His presence demonstrates, to the large numbers of women and children present, that vaccination is essential to children’s survival.

Preventing measles

In Rwanda, mortality from measles accounts for less than 2 per cent of deaths of children under the age of five. However, it is important that regular measles ‘catch-up’ campaigns are carried out in order to ensure thath gains are consolidated. These campaigns help to keep immunity high and children protected from life-threatening diseases. 

This year’s nationwide, UNICEF-supported child health and vaccination campaign targeted 1.5 million women and children in four days. Over 45,000 people – including volunteers, community health workers and community leaders – were mobilized to make the week a success.

Children were also given oral polio drops and vitamin A supplementation, which boosts immunity, along with de-worming tablets to prevent intestinal infections. Pregnant women received iron, folic acid and vitamin A supplements, as well. For the first time, UNICEF helped distribute 500,000 bottles of a water-purifying solution to lactating and pregnant women to ensure that they have access to safe drinking water.

"The campaign is a momentous achievement in terms of coordination between the Ministry of Health, community health workers and development partners to provide improved health to Rwanda’s women and children," said UNICEF Nutrition Officer Dr. Abiud Omwega.



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