UNICEF and partners support catch-up immunization outreaches to reach every child with vaccines

Reaching the unreached in Kikuube District

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye
World Immunization Week 2022, Uganda, vaccines work, vaccination, immunization
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Tibaweswa
19 May 2022

Peter Byaruhanga, the immunization focal person for Kikuube District analyses immunization data for the first quarter of 2022. From the numbers, the district is performing very poorly. Despite a great performance in the previous financial year, the district faced several challenges that have affected their immunization coverage exposing many children to killer diseases.

The data indicates that Kikuube District is currently categorized under category four and colour coded ‘red’. But what does that mean? Category four is the worst ranking and indicates that both accessibility to and utilization of immunization services is poor, Byaruhanga who has been overseeing the immunization programme for the district for several years, explains.

“Until your data is displayed on the dashboard, you will never know whether you are performing well or not,”

he adds.

But what does this even mean for the children of Kikuube District? This simply means that the majority of the children are unprotected and are at risk. Several have not completed their vaccination schedules, putting them at risk of contracting killer diseases which could be prevented through vaccination. Sadly, majority of the children are in hard-to-reach locations of the district.

UNICEF has been working with Kikuube District for several years, strengthening systems to effectively deliver health, education, and protection services for children.

World Immunization Week 2022, Uganda, vaccines work, vaccination, immunization
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Tibaweswa

In Health, one of the priorities supported is improving vaccination coverage to benefit all children. However, Byaruhanga mentions that the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected the routine vaccination exercises when the government prioritized COVID-19 vaccination drives over child immunizations.

During World Immunization Week 2022 and beyond, the district with UNICEF support and financial assistance from European Union, is prioritizing and implementing catch-up immunization drives to reach children who missed out on their vaccinations.

immunization, world immunization week, #WIW, vaccination, hard to reach areas, remote, measles, polio, pneumonia, diarrhea, UNICEF, Uganda, European Union
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Tibaweswa
World Immunization Week 2022, Uganda, vaccines work, vaccination, immunization
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Tibaweswa

During a visit to Kiina Village, a faraway location near Lake Albert and in between the rift valley escarpment, parents and caregivers gather at the outreach session organized by Buhuka Health Centre III with UNICEF support. Sadly, there are very many children behind on their vaccinations with several zero doses – those who have never received any vaccinations.

The health team reviews their vaccination cards and provides all the vaccines they need. 
Innocent Ahayisibwe, Medical Clinical Officer and Incharge of Buhuka Health Centre III is leading the vaccination exercise in Kiina Village. Passionate about child vaccinations, he confirms that the team will organize several outreaches to reach every child with lifesaving vaccines.

“I was vaccinated that is why I am alive and healthy. As such, I am indebted to reach every child with vaccines so that they don’t die before five years,”

Ahayisibwe shares.

UNICEF takes immunization services closer to communities

In Sebagoro Village, Sebagoro landing site, on the shores of Lake Albert, the outreaches have been supplemented by door-to-door home visits to find the unvaccinated children. Albert Oneka, the immunization focal person at Sebagoro Health Centre III and his team move from house to house. They request for vaccination cards to identify the ‘missed opportunities’ as they refer to them.

World Immunization Week 2022, Uganda, vaccines work, vaccination, immunization
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Tibaweswa
World Immunization Week 2022, Uganda, vaccines work, vaccination, immunization
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Tibaweswa

Like other locations, the zero doses are several – they are unprotected! Vaccines mean protection for children, their families, and the larger communities.  

World Immunization Week 2022, Uganda, vaccines work, vaccination, immunization
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Tibaweswa

Among the mothers whose children were vaccinated is 37-year-old Christine Oaikane. Her four months old baby, Abdul missed out on vaccines due in March. She cited long distances and inaccessible roads due to rain as the barriers. She is aware that it is important to vaccinate children because diseases like measles and polio can affect child growth and development. “The children can even die.” She appreciated the door-to-door vaccination drives because they save them from the long diseases to the health facility. She is informed of baby Abdul’s next vaccination appointment and promises not to miss it.

World Immunization Week 2022, Uganda, vaccines work, vaccination, immunization
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Tibaweswa

Ayerango Consiy carries baby Charity. She is only one week and two days. Charity delivered in a clinic close to home because she couldn’t get to the health facility. The roads were impassable due to the heavy rains. At the clinic, her baby was not vaccinated. She is happy that the health workers have come to her home with vaccination services and that baby Charity gets an opportunity to receive all the vaccines provided for newborns and a vaccination card. Consiy knows that when children are not vaccinated, they get polio and become ‘paralysed’. She has been told to take baby Charity to the health facility on 19 May when the next vaccinations are due.

Going an extra mile to ensure vaccines reach all children in Kikuube

Byaruhanga notes that Kikuube District has several remote villages, located far from the health facilities and with poor road infrastructure especially during the rainy season. Reaching the children in these locations therefore requires organizing comprehensive outreaches otherwise the children will miss their vaccines. “If health workers don’t go to them, the parents will never come to the facilities for services,” he confirms. “Now that we the data and the support, the district is organizing additional outreaches starting with the least performing sub counties and we pledge to reach all our children with vaccines,” he concluded.