Afghanistan’s Child Vaccination Campaigns Tailored to Local Needs

Afghanistan. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

In a country the size of Texas with 80 percent of its 25 million people living in underdeveloped rural areas, immunizing every child against common illnesses is no small challenge. BASICS Afghanistan, funded by USAID and led by MSH, is working with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and UNICEF to improve low vaccination rates in Afghanistan by engaging communities in identifying their local needs and tailoring vaccination campaigns accordingly.

In nine Afghan provinces, BASICS is piloting the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) micro-planning initiative, a bottom-up approach in which local communities review immunization rates, identify why families do not have their children vaccinated, and tailor solutions appropriate to the local situation. This approach increases the number of children present at sessions providing vaccination against measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, and polio.

Vaccinators who travel to remote areas play an important part in the program, claiming 53 percent of children immunized. Sedquddin, who is head of a health shura —a community health council—in Takhar province, helps organize these outreach services: “Because it is difficult for many families to bring their children to the clinic, we are working with the clinic staff and vaccinators to develop schedules for outreach and mobile clinics to reach more children in remote areas.” 

For the MoPH, EPI micro-planning overcomes one of the more enduring barriers to providing better health for Afghan children. Dr. Mashal, Director-General of the Ministry’s Preventive Medicine Directorate, said, “With EPI micro-planning we are showing that the real solution for greater vaccination rates is to combine Local Area Monitoring with active community involvement and support from the health clinic staff. As a result, we will save more children from infectious diseases.”