Workshop: 800,000 kids missed out on immunisation

Malnourished children also fail to benefit from vaccination.


Sehrish Wasif July 12, 2012

ISLAMABAD:


A total of 810,450 infants have so far missed out on immunisation this year and have been left susceptible to various childhood diseases.


Poverty itself plays a major role in infant deaths, with most infants suffering from malnutrition, which in turn precludes their bodies from responding to vaccinations.

This was shared at the inauguration session of a two-day training workshop on “The role of journalists in child and maternal health reporting” organised by Save the Children at a local hotel on Wednesday.

Speakers feared the actual deaths are double or even triple the ones reported. They termed the situation “alarming” as every minute marks the death of a child in Pakistan below the age of five. These children often die from preventable disease such as malaria and diarrhoea. Malnutrition alone is responsible for 35% of all under-five deaths in the country.

Dr Qudsia Uzma, health and nutrition specialist at Save the Children, said the reasons behind low immunisation of infant include certain myths about the vaccines, shortage of vaccinators (especially females), inaccessibility of health facilities, lack of awareness about importance of routine immunisation, lack of media campaigns and ineffective arrangements for maintaining a cold chain to preserve vaccines.

There is only one health worker for about 1,000 people and one vaccinator for about 10,000 people, Dr Uzma said.

“It is a veritable challenge to reduce the under-five mortality rate in such a situation. In most places, women are reluctant to visit health facilities due to the absence of female health professionals and vaccinators. This increases the risk of their suffering and dying from preventable diseases,” she added.

She emphasised on the need to involve community leaders, teachers and religious scholars to change people’s mindset and educate them about the importance of immunising their children.

Senior nutrition specialist at the World Bank, Luc Laviolette, said about 15% of the children under five in Pakistan are stunted due to malnutrition. “Provincial governments plans to improve health and education will only be effective if they are implemented,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2012.

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