Increasing the Number of Children Vaccinated against Life Threatening Illnesses

Increasing the Number of Children Vaccinated against Life Threatening Illnesses

Providing immunizations to children in Afghanistan.

Many children in Afghanistan can be spared of communicable diseases that can make them ill and even cause death, if they receive routine vaccinations. But in a country of more than 25 million people in a country the size of Texas, where over 80% of the population lives in rural areas, immunizing every child against measles, diphtheria, pertusis (whooping cough), tetanus, and polio is very challenging.

Large scale immunization campaigns have proved helpful, but have been unable to significantly increase and maintain high immunization rates throughout the country.

The US Agency for International Development’s BASICS project (Basic Support for Institutionalizing Child Survival), with support from MSH, is working with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and UNICEF to demonstrate in nine districts how an expanded program on immunization (EPI) micro-planning can successfully increase the number of immunized children.

EPI micro-planning is a strategy for increasing the percentage of children immunized by having local planning for vaccination sessions to ensure that the maximum numbers of children are present when sessions are organized. This bottom-up planning has empowered local communities to review immunization rates and identify the reasons why many families do not have their children vaccinated. The communities help develop solutions for the problems that are appropriate to their local situation.

Sedquddin, of Takhar province, the head of a local health shura—a community health council—said:

We are protecting more of our children from diseases with shots (immunizations) so fewer of them die. Because it is difficult for many families to bring their children to the clinic for shots, we are working with the clinic staff and vaccinators to develop schedules for outreach and mobile clinics to reach more children in remote areas.

Having these outreach clinics where vaccinators and clinic staff travel to villages is very important since 53% of children will be immunized only through such outreach sessions in the remote communities.

Dr. Mashal a representative from the MoPH 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. We will save more children from infectious diseases, as a result.

BASICS/Afghanistan, led by MSH, provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan to address newborn health, community case management of childhood illnesses, nutrition, pediatric hospital care improvement, behavior change communications, and systems strengthening.

Bill Newbrander is Principal Technical Director at MSH.