Second Round of NIDs launched in Uzbekistan with UNICEF deputy Regional Director
by Savita Varde-Naqvi
TASHKENT, 7 June, 2010 – The global partnership for polio eradication has intensified with a forceful reaffirmation of the commitment by the Uzbekistan Government to keep the country free of the debilitating disease. The message was unmistakable as prof. Adkham Ikramov, Minister of Health flagged off the second national immunization campaign against polio in a Tashkent clinic flanked by WHO Regional Director for Europe Mrs. Zsuzsanna Jakab and UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS), Mrs. Kirsi Madi.
A festive atmosphere, unusual for public health campaigns in Central Asia, marked the launch of the immunization round. Traditional wind and percussion instruments filled the air with battle cry against the polio virus. Colourfully dressed children danced to folk music, celebrating their right to be protected against polio with two vaccine drops every child under the age of five must receive during the National Immunisation Days (NID) against polio.
The second round of NIDs from 7 to 13 June 2010 will target a population of 2.9 million children between 0 - 5 years, the same number as during the first round held last month. The post-campaign monitoring results of the first round showed good vaccine coverage and awareness about the campaign. “The second round aims to maintain the high coverage while focusing on difficult to access children such as mobile populations or those living in remote areas,” Minister Ikramov said.
Baby boy Shahrukhkhan, who will be three in August was the first child to receive the oral polio vaccine (OPV) drops in his upturned mouth. A string of infants and young children followed in an orderly manner. First the registration, then the two drops and finally about 45 minutes in the parent’s lap or playing around while medical staff observed to make sure that there was no adverse effects following immunization.
UNICEF with support from global partners such as the Centre for Disease control, USAID and the Rotary International procured 6.6 doses of the oral polio vaccine (OPV) for the two rounds at a cost of US$ 1.1 million. Though there have been no confirmed polio cases in Uzbekistan, preventive action is being taken not to allow importation into the country from neighbouring countries.
With five rounds of NIDs planned for Tajikistan this year to weed out the polio outbreak (564 acute flaccid paralysis cases and 183 confirmed cases till 1 June), Uzbekistan is likely to have a third round of polio NIDs. UNICEF has already mobilized the resources and stands ready to procure additional 3.3 million doses of the vaccine. UNICEF has also assisted the Ministry of Health to produce 2400 banners, 20,000 posters, 2.5 million handouts for families and 2000 ‘job-aids’ for patronage nurses in addition to public service announcements for radio and television.
Commending the massive effort put in by the Ministry of Health (MoH) through 10,000 vaccinators, 9,000 doctors and 5000 patronage nurses across the country, UNICEF Deputy Regional director for CEE/CIS encouraged parents and families to make sure there was no child unimmunized during the second round. “Most important for the success of the campaign is to take the families along and I am happy to note that this is being done through Village Committee members, religious leaders and community advisors during this round. It is critical that households know that every single child whether newborn, unwell or visiting relatives must get immunized during the NIDs” Ms Madi said.
Dr Akida Sadikova Nazarullaevna, Chief Doctor of Clinic #47 explained how her clinic’s patronage nurses involved all the residents in their catchment area through ‘mahalla’ (community) committees and schools before the campaign began. “We used our classes for young mothers to discuss the importance of getting all children under the age of five, especially newborns immunized during NIDs. The patronage nurses took leaflets produced by UNICEF to families during house visits and left them with mothers to read and remember,” she added.
Ms Madi also met with mothers and children who had just been immunized with the polio vaccine after the launch of the campaign. These children were being observed by a nurse and were waiting for her go ahead to get back home. Little Dilnora held out her hand playfully as if to show off the ink marking on the little finger of her left hand. “She is one year old today and I feel the whole country is celebrating her birthday with this campaign. She is also proud of her first ‘nail polish,’ said Dilafruz Tilobova, 24, the proud mother. Finger marking is a new feature introduced in the second campaign round to crosscheck the number of children immunized children against tally sheets prepared by the health facilities for accuracy of coverage.
Following her Uzbekistan visit, Ms Madi participates in the MDG + 10 Regional Conference for Europe and CIS to be held on 9 and 10 June 2010 in Turkey. She used her first visit to Uzbekistan as UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for CEE/CIS to brief the media in Tashkent about the progress made by Europe and CIS on the MDGs.
She highlighted the compelling need to achieve the MDGs with full equity and social inclusion. “National data sometimes masks regional and sub-regional disparities. At this MDG stocktaking meeting UNICEF is focusing on expanding the MDG benefits to the most deprived, marginalized and excluded children and their families,” she said. Most MDGs have shown improvement in the Europe and CIS, she said. “However, the matter of most concern for the region is the growing rate of HIV infections. The numbers of infected persons is still small but the rate of infection is rapidly increasing. Uzbekistan is bang in the middle of the region and must be attentive to this issue and take preventive action,” Ms Madi added.