Child Health Days: Vaccinations and Health Care for All

Child Health Days: Vaccinations and Health Care for All

Nator Namunya, 6-months old, receives a vaccination in Kapoeta North County. Credit: Save the Children.

 

A version of this post originally appeared on the Save the Children website.

The healthcare system in South Sudan is struggling to get on to its feet after the devastation of over 20 years of war. The biggest killers of children in southern Sudan are malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections. These preventable diseases can be easy to treat. But, on average, only one in four people in South Sudan are within reach of a health center. Only 3 percent of children under two in South Sudan are fully immunized against killer diseases and only 12 percent of families have a mosquito net in their home.

In rural Kapoeta North County, the numbers of people with access to healthcare, immunizations and mosquito nets, are even lower. Kapoeta North is located in Eastern Equatoria, bordering Kenya. The area is home to the pastoralist Tiposa tribe. The men are cattle keepers and women cultivate small amounts of sorghum and greens.

Life is difficult here. Walking from village to village you have the feeling that you are in the middle of nowhere. Thorny acacia trees are the only source of shade from the beating sun, and cattle wander the landscape. Families have no access to clean water, which causes poor hygiene practices and preventable illnesses -- both of which contribute to widespread malnutrition. Access to healthcare and health education is limited. Families walk for hours or days along dusty footpaths to reach their nearest health facility. Children and pregnant mothers die from preventable diseases, and communities depend on traditional healers for many of their ailments.

The USAID-funded Sudan Health Transformation Project, Phase Two (SHTP II), led by MSH, is looking to change this. SHTP II utilizes a multifaceted approach, including support from local health facilities, community mobilizers -- who go house-to-house to explain the importance of vaccinations, nutrition, clean water and hygiene -- and Community Based Distributors (CBDs) -- who offer treatment at the community level for diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia.

Over 3,000 Attend SHTP II's Child Health Days

Earlier this year, SHTP II through local implementing partner Save the Children, hosted three consecutive Child Health Days in Najie, Lomeyien and Paringa payams (sub-districts) which attracted over 3,000 mothers and children.

Community Based Distributors and Traditional Birth Attendants presented dramas and songs about the importance of immunization, nutrition, breastfeeding, HIV/AIDS, safe water and malaria. Attendants lined up by the hundreds to receive immunizations. SHTP II outreach officers also provided antenatal care check-ups for pregnant mothers, outpatient nutritional services for malnourished children, and long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets (LLITN) for children under 5 and pregnant mothers.

A mother and child receive immunizations and insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Credit: Save the Children.

 

"I brought my children for vaccination since they had not yet been injected. They got the injections and were also given mosquito nets," said Rebecca Joshua Ayarangura, a teacher and traditional birth attendant, who brought her 2-year-old son Luopuoke Lokai and 3-year-old daughter Regina Rebecca Lokai to be immunized in Paringa.

Now they are protected. For the past few days that I have been attending the Child Health Days, I see the importance of children getting vaccinated to protect against killer diseases.

Some time back, our children were suffering from these diseases because of ignorance. We were not educated. Now our communities are aware that this medicine works when the child is vaccinated.

The importance is that it also reduces mortality rates. Our children here used to die at a very high rate because we did not know what to do. We were just relying on local herbs.

In Kapoeta North, SHTP II also supports a permanent cold chain storage system at the Riwoto Primary Health Care Center (PHCC). This storage system is vital since many vaccinations must be kept cold to prevent spoilage -- a tall order in a country where electricity is scarce and temperatures often reach above 100°F during the dry season.

Pio Lomone, EPI Officer, removes vaccinations from the cold chain storage at the SCiSS-supported Riwoto Primary Health Care Center. Credit: Save the Children.

 

Facility staff at the Riwoto health center provide vaccinations to all mothers and children who walk in seeking services. In addition, EPI Outreach Officers move from village to village on a daily basis, mobilizing mothers and offering immunizations to children in the most rural areas of Kapoeta North County -- villagers that would otherwise have to walk for hours, or even days, to receive care.

Interventions like these and the Child Health Days are instrumental in addressing the problem of preventable deaths in young children caused by easily treated diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia. In the words of Rebecca:

Now we have learned about vaccinations and healthcare from [SHTP II, Save the Children and donors.] We are really appreciative for what they have done. Our children nowadays are living a long time, instead of dying young.

Jenn Warren is the Information & Communications Officer for Save the Children in South Sudan. Her work has been published in outlets such as the Sunday Times Magazine, TIME, Rolling Stone, BBC News Online and AlJazeera. A version of this post originally appeared on the Save the Children website.

Comments

Yili Liao

Great job!! Your efforts have saved and will save lots of lives which are struggling in the poverty!

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