Vaccines save children’s lives in remote areas in Iraq
Use of clean energy for vaccine cold chain
Basra, Iraq, 28 May 2023 – Asma Ali, a 36-year-old woman is waiting to get her 3-month-old baby girl Rawan vaccinated at Al Shuaiba Primary Health Care Center. Accompanied by her mother-in-law, Fourat, Asma is keen on vaccinating her newborn baby girl.
“I always bring my children to get vaccinated on time,” said Asma with pride. “I want to protect them from all diseases and give them the best start in life.”
Due to poverty, social norms and traditions, Asma got married at an early age. She has six children, five girls and one boy.
“I dropped out of school at the age of 14,” recalled Asma. “I wanted to continue my education, but my parents insisted that I get married.”
Her two oldest daughters, Sujood, 18 and Zmorod, 16 were also married at an early age. Each girl already has one child.
“My oldest daughters did not want to continue their education,” said Asma with grief. “My husband Ali and I had no choice but to marry them early.”
Asma’s husband Ali is a daily labourer. Securing jobs is a burden, making him face many challenges in making ends meet.
“My husband is out of a job now,” uttered Asma. “But, irrelevant of our situation, I am determined to have my three younger daughters and son continue their education.”
Clean energy to maintain vaccine storage
Established in 2006, Al Shuiaba Primary Health Care Center (PHC) serves seven impoverished communities in Basra. Fortunately, 20 out of the Center’s 35 staff members are women.
“I always encourage women to work at this clinic,” said Ms. Hadeel Murad, Manager of the PHC. “Among the female staff is one physician, nurses, pharmacists and a dentist.”
The Center offers maternal and child health services, dental care, general medical care and pharmaceutical services to more than 24,000 vulnerable people in Basra.
“Most of our patients suffer from poverty,” said Ms. Murad. “They come to the clinic to receive free medical and dental care.”
On a monthly basis, the Center serves up to 900 patients, half are children. Though, like most areas in Iraq, the Center suffers from power outages presenting a major challenge for vaccine storage.
“At times, power outage lasts up to six hours,” said Ms. Murad.
During long hours of a power outage, the PHC Manager had no option but to resort to using the generator. Yet, the generator can function for a few hours, leaving the vaccine storage without electrical power for some hours.
“On a daily basis, we receive up to 20 children to get vaccinated,” said Ms. Murad. “I work hard to ensure that the vaccines administered to children are effective.”
To adhere to vaccine storage guidelines and to overcome the power outages, UNICEF, with funding from Korea, supported the clinic with solar panels and plans to refurbish the Center.
“These solar panels will help us to maintain the vaccine cold chain,” added Ms. Murad. “Through vaccines, we can prevent outbreaks and ensure that every child is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.”