Saada: life-saving drops

#foreverychild, health

It is 9am and the health centre of Balbala 2, a peri-urban area of the capital Djibouti-city, is teeming with people. Some children play in the waiting room, even if the thermometer reads 30oC and there is no AC. Dressed in her gleaming green dress, Saada is ready for another big moment in her a short life: this four-month little girl is going to be vaccinated for the second time.

According to Djibouti’s routine Immunisation Calendar, at 6 weeks Saada should have received the first dose of Pentavalent, Polio, Pneumococcal and Rota-virus vaccines. The appointment had been set for the 2nd February 2015, but she missed it. Back then Kadra, her mother, was too busy. She has another child to take care of and no secure job; without a husband to support her, this 25 year old woman has plenty responsibilities over her shoulders…

Kadra is well aware that she must vaccinate her children. She learned about the importance of vaccination through the work of the community health workers and influential community workers who conduct door-to-door sensitization in her neighborhood.

She also heard about it on the national TV channel and radio, in ongoing sensitization programs organized by the Ministry of Health with UNICEF support. “Health is one of the most precious things”, she says in a soft but firm voice. However, like many other caregivers, she continues to miss out some appointments. According to the results of a national survey on the immunization coverage released in December 2014, the measles coverage for children aged 0–11 months is 71.2 per cent but increases to 83.1 per cent within the age group 12–23 months — showing that many families still do not understand that it is important to follow the vaccination schedule.

Increasing the demand

Every day on average about 30 mothers and babies come to Balbala 2 health centre to be vaccinated. However, the coverage rate is still below ideal levels. According to national survey on the immunisation coverage, the percentage of children fully immunised rose from 72.9 per cent to 82.7 per cent between 2008 and 2014 but these figures hide serious disparities. Last year nearly three out of ten children living in rural areas still missed out on basic vaccines that could mean the difference between life and death. While 93 per cent children aged 0–11 months have received the first dose of Penta vaccine, only 86.1 per cent return for the second dose and 78 per cent for the third dose.

For this reason UNICEF continues working with WHO, the National Immunisation Program and the Department of Health Promotion to raise awareness and increase the demand for immunisation services. Door-to-door sensitisation, posters, TV and radio spots and round-tables are used to disseminate key messages, hoping that more and more children can have access to these life-saving drops.