Sharing Immunization Knowledge to Save Lives
By Fred Shamakondo Njobvu, Provincial Coordinator Zambia, BID Initiative
Apr 21, 2015
Posted in General
This post is part of PATH’s #ProtectingKids blog series for World Immunization Week. Read the whole series here.
During a routine immunization session at Simoonga Rural Health Center in Livingstone, Zambia, I met 27-year old Monde Imasiku waiting in line for her one and a half-year old twins to get vaccinated. Monde walks over four kilometers to reach this health facility carrying her twins Mukela and Nobu, while four-year old Sililo walks by her side.
Monde admits to me that her twins have not been in for a vaccination in months. She said that she did not understand the importance of immunization–getting the vaccination takes too long and the distance to the facility is too far.
Namakau, a health worker at the facility, later explained to me that since there is a lack of knowledge among mothers around the importance of immunization, some mothers do not come in and their children miss out on a potentially life-saving vaccination. To remedy this issue, Namakau has increased health talks for mothers, teaching them about the importance of immunization and encouraging them to share the messages with other mothers in their village. For example, diarrheal diseases are among the top five leading causes of under-five mortality and most mothers don’t know that vaccinations protect children from such diseases.
Some mothers from Monde’s village who attended the health talks put on by Namakau shared the information with her. Monde explains that she decided to bring her children in for immunizations to protect them from pneumonia and diarrhea, “My friends told me that they had heard from the health worker that the vaccination will protect our children from these diseases. I have stopped missing immunization appointments because I want my children to be healthy.”
Creating awareness about the importance of immunization among rural communities is key to improving immunization coverage and protecting more children from harmful diseases. Many children miss immunizations because their mothers lack basic knowledge on how vaccines can protect kids. Health authorities in Zambia are also working to ensure that knowledge about the importance of immunization is integrated into the primary health information package.