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Mothers and Babies Take Vaccines during Sierra Leone’s Integrated Health Week

© UNICEF/SierraLeone/2008/Davies
Rugiatu Bangura, 16, of Bombali, holds her son as he is being de-wormed at a gathering during Health Week.

Makeni, Sierra Leone, 4th December 2008 - Rugiatu Bangura, 16, of Bombali took her one year old son, Osman to the Makeni Town Hall, which had temporarily been converted into an health fair center for the Integrated Health Week or Mami en Pikin Well Bodi Week that was held nationwide in Sierra Leone between the 22nd and 29th November 2008.

Rugiatu dropped out of school at the age of 15 due to early pregnancy. Like many other girl mothers in Sierra Leone, Rugiatu was not well informed of the problems associated with early pregnancy; neither did she know how to properly take care of babies, nor the benefits of vaccination for both mothers and children and how to prevent diseases such as malaria .

Sierra Leone has the world’s worst child and maternal mortality indicators; under-five mortality rate Sierra Leone has the world’s worst child and maternal mortality indicators; under-five mortality rate is estimated at 267 per 1,000 live births and maternal mortality is 1,300 per 100,000. Malaria is the leading cause of illness and deaths among children under the age of five in Sierra Leone. It accounts for over 40 per cent of all diseases reported at health facilities and over 38 per cent of deaths of children under the age of five. Neonatal tetanus is responsible for 23 per cent of infant mortality.

In order to help tackle the problem, UNICEF and other development partners collaborated with the Government of Sierra Leone to initiate the Mami en Pikin Well Bodi Week which is a bi-annual event that will be held every May and November.

The Mami en Pikin Well Bodi Week is an integrated package of preventive health services aimed at achieving high coverage in health care delivery to women of child bearing age (15 – 49 years)  and children who are below the age of five nationwide.

“I learnt about this health fair from the radio and I decided to come since I was ignorant of taking care of my baby”, said Rugiatu. “I am now very confident that my baby will now grow healthily after he has been vaccinated and with the additional information I have received on good child keeping, I am sure that my child will live beyond the age of five”, she added after an health worker had administered a dose of mebendazole on her child in order to de-worm him.

Different booths were set up at the health fair by health workers and organizations that provided information and education on nutrition, family planning, easily preventable diseases, hand washing and HIV/AIDS, and administrated/distributed vitamin A oral, de-worming tablets, vaccination, and insecticide treated bed nets.

“I have also been vaccinated against tetanus and from now on I will always go to an health center for treatment whenever my baby and I fall ill; I will advise my friends to do the same”, Rugiatu added.

“I hope to return to school very soon so that I could make a brighter future for myself and my baby”, she expressed.

Hundreds of other young girls like Rugiatu who had gathered at the health fair in Makeni, were vaccinated against tetanus and their babies, immunized. Many more clamored for free condoms and scrambled to receive health information to improve their reproduction and child keeping behavior.

by Issa Davies



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