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10 August 2020 - News

Children getting life-saving vaccinations has declined

By Cynthia Ngesa

Statistics show that the number of children getting life-saving vaccinations has declined this year largely because of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Florence Kabuga, Nairobi County Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) logistician, in Nairobi County, Immunization services dropped by 20% in April 2020. “Few caregivers are accessing health facilities,” she said. Reluctance to leave home, transport problems, economic hardship, restrictions on movement or fear of being exposed to the virus are among the reasons she also gave for the slowdown in immunisations. Save the Children is supporting routine monthly door-to-door immunization outreaches in the informal settlements of Kibra/ Langata sub counties. This approach has been critical in increasing immunization coverage especially in urban slums since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On a chilly Thursday morning, a ministry of health door to door immunization team comprising of a nurse and two community health volunteers are tracing children who missed out on immunization at the scheduled time in DC village, Kibra Slums. They are part of a team that has been conducting routine monthly door-to-door immunization exercise in the informal settlement of Kibra since the month of May. Khadija Sebi a grandmother and caretaker of a 9 month old approaches the team; her excitement is evident in her eyes despite the facemask that has covered most of her face. She informs the team that her grandson is due for the Measles vaccination. Like most of her neighbours, she said that she feared contracting COVID-19 and did not take her grandson for his routine immunization on time. Yassir, her grandson, has been under her care since he was 2 months old when her mother travelled to Saudi Arabia in search of greener pastures. She had taken her grandson for growth monitoring and vitamin A supplementation at 6 months in one of the nearby health facilities in Kibera. However, she was not attended to and was asked to go back when Yassir turned 9 months. As the numbers of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kibra continued to rise, her fear of exposing her family to the virus increased. This meant that Yassir would have defaulted his measles immunization had it not been for the intervention of Save the Children’s support door to door immunization outreach. Yassir received the measles vaccine and vitamin A supplementation administered by Nurse Shamim.

Save the Children is supporting routine monthly door-to-door immunization outreaches in the informal settlements of Kibra/ Langata sub counties. The approach employed involves identifying immunization defaulters at the link facilities; with the help of community volunteers, designated immunizing officers (nurses) are able to reach these children. This approach has proved effective, as over 200 children less than one year who had defaulted immunization have been reached so far. This is in addition to 300 others who received immunization as per the Kenya immunization schedule.

“With the support I have received from Save the Children I am confident that my grandchild will have a healthy life free from preventable illnesses. I am very grateful to Save the Children and the Ministry of Health for this initiative,” said Khadija.