With support from UNICEF, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation through the Health Education Division last week Thursday engaged all 75 Ward Councillors in the Western Area at the Atlantic Hall, National Stadium in Freetown.
The purpose of the engagement was to orientate Ward Councillors on the upcoming Nationwide Measles Rubella Vaccination Campaign, scheduled to take place Monday 10th –Sunday 16th June, this year.
In his Presentation, Chief Health Education Officer & Programme Manager, Health Education Division thanked Ward Councillors for paying heed to their invitation, adding that Councillors have a key role to play in ensuring that the campaign becomes a success, as they are not only representatives of their people but also parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents in their communities.
Mr. Conteh continued that Councillors have been helpful in previous health campaigns and that the upcoming Integrated Measles Rubella Vaccination Campaign would not be an exception.
While urging Councillors to support the campaign, the Programme Manger outlined the roles and responsibilities of councillors before, during and after the campaign, stating that councillors are expected to not only monitor the campaign but also support the campaign in the area of awareness raising and addressing refusals in communities/wards which is one of the key impediments in immunization campaigns over the years.
He furthered that councillors can play a pivotal role in addressing refusals and missed children which it noted would prevent the Health Ministry from actualizing the campaign goal of reaching over 3.2 Million children with the much needed lifesaving health interventions; thereby preventing child morbidity and Mortality and emphasized that the campaign is not House-to-House rather the strategy is that teams of vaccinators would temporary station in schools, markets and any other place with high presence of children.
Social Mobilization Officer, Umuhawa Barrie-Jalloh at the Child Health/Expanded Programme on Immunization presented the key benefits of vaccinating children for Measles & Rubella, adding that though similar Measles and Rubella are a very contiguous diseases caused by droplets of air from the sneeze/cough of an infected person.
Measles and Rubella can lead to blindness, deafness and many other major health complications. Rubella can also lead to Maternal Rubella Infection in early pregnancy which can severely affect the fetus and can result in miscarriage, fetal death or a combination of disabling conditions collectively known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS).
She reiterated that they were also going to vaccinated children under-5 years for Polio, noting that polio can cause permanent paralysis in children if not prevented.
“The only prevention for Measles, Rubella and Polio is vaccination backed with Sanitation” Umuhawa Noted.
Nutritionist, James Moriba at the Directorate of Food and Nutrition also presented the benefits of supplementing children with Vitamin A and deworm children with Albendazole tablet as Vitamin A supplement/Capsule builds the nutrients of children; thereby preventing/protecting children against diseases, adding that Albendazole prevents worms’ infestation in children, as worms feed on the Vitamin A nutrients in the child. If children are not dewormed, there will be completion for nutrients between the child’s body and the worms, which puts the child at risk of malnutrition.
This he noted is one of the main reasons they were targeting children 6-59 months with Vitamin A Supplements/Capsule and deworming children 12-59 months with Albendazole Tablet in the following 7 districts: Bonthe, Moyamba, Bombali, Potrtloko, Kambai, Western Area Rural and Western Area Urban. They emphasized that they were not targeting children under 6 months of age because they are expected to be exclusively breast fed in which supplements are not needed, as every nutrient needed for the child’s development at that age can be found in the Brest milk.
Reporting by Ibrahim Sorie Koroma, Health Education Officer – HED/MoHS