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Female health workers boosting immunization coverage in Kano

UNICEF Nigeria/2018/Owoicho
© UNICEF Nigeria/2018/Owoicho
Head of the Hotoro North health centre, Ladidi Suleiman and her team of female health workers.

By Oluwatosin Akingbulu

9 May 2018 - In Hotoro North health centre, Kano State, an all-female team of ten health workers is working hard to change the low immunization rate in their community. The team, led by a female director, has recorded one of the highest improvements in vaccination of children in the state. The health workers provide routine immunization services, vaccinating pregnant women, mothers and their children against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and other vaccine-preventable diseases. The vaccines protect mothers and children by helping to safely develop immunity to diseases. The health workers also ensure that a proper tracking mechanism is in place, with a register and health cards to monitor the immunization schedules of mothers and children, making sure they do not miss any vaccine.

“All the health workers here are hardworking. They are well-trained to do the job and the community trusts them,” says 47-year-old Ladidi Suleiman, head of the centre.

In Nigeria, the routine immunization coverage has been low with the country still a long way from reaching the 90% target. Places like Kano State in northern Nigeria have been particularly low with only about 10% of children fully immunized. Even though there are vaccines available in the health centres, many children still do not get vaccinated.

In the community, it is not always easy to convince parents to allow their children get vaccinated. Some of them believe that good health is divine alone and there is nothing they can do to prevent sickness. This means the health workers must go out of their way to change negative perceptions and increase uptake of vaccines. 

UNICEF Nigeria/2018/Owoicho
© UNICEF Nigeria/2018/Owoicho
Fatima Zubairu, a health worker at the Hotoro North health centre teaches pregnant women and mothers the benefits of immunization.

“Because I know immunization is important for every child, I do house-to-house visits, telling mothers about how diseases spread and how they can be prevented. I tell them that prevention is better than cure,” says Fatima Zubairu, a mother of three girls and health worker at the centre.

“I speak to the community leaders to encourage men to take their wives and children to the clinic for vaccination. When the women come to the clinic for ante-natal or post-natal care, I also give them health talks and a constant reminder that vaccines work, and they are safe for their children.”

Many of the women are now more accepting of the vaccines and even if they choose to give birth at home, they bring in their newborns for vaccination.

Some days at the clinic, the health workers vaccinate more than 80 babies in one day. This is huge progress from last year when they were vaccinating only about 24 babies from their community in one day. It is easier to meet up with the increasing demand for routine immunization services because the health centre never runs out of vaccines due to the support from the Kano State Government and UNICEF.

“All my children are fully immunized and they are healthy. I tell mothers that when you give children full immunization, you have given them more than anything,” says Fatima.

 

 
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