Kasungu surpasses other districts in ending cultural barriers to vaccination

Various studies have highlighted cultural and traditional beliefs are some of the barriers hampering vaccine uptake in all the 28 districts of Malawi.

However, the situation is slowly improving in Kasungu where the vaccine uptake has significantly improved over the past months, thanks to efforts by the Malawi Health Equity Network (MEHN).

With funding from GAVI Alliance, MEHN has devised working strategy, which has already seen cultural and traditional beliefs giving way to modern way of doing things.

The network is implementing this initiative in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu, Mzimba , Chitipa , Kasungu, Dowa Ntchisi and Mchinji.

Kamdolozi (right) explaining how traditional and cultural beliefs used to hamper child immunization initiatives

A recent visit to some of the districts showed that there is much progress in as far as Under Five and pregnant women vaccination is concerned.

Agnes Kamdolozi is the Chairperson of Kasalika Mother Care Group and this is what she said, “The coming of Mother Care Groups (MCG) has significantly helped to increase vaccination uptake in the area. She said the MCG has been on campaign drive wooing women not to default vaccination and the campaign has been so good and has brought good results.”

She said Kasungu has so far become a role model in ending cultural beliefs, which are the main barriers towards vaccinations.

Malepera MCG chairperson Felinasi Kalaso, who comes from Traditional Authority Kawamba, collaborated with Kamdolozi, saying the figures of under-five have jumped from 28 children in 2o19 to 40 children in 2021.

Senior Group Village Head Diwala said he is happy to see progress in vaccination in his area. He said only healthy people can participate in developmental projects in the area.

Councilor Gift Banda of Lisasadzi Ward said the vaccination initiative has reduced the number of people falling sick in the area.

Meanwhile, Malepela MCG has embarked on constructing of under-five clinic in their community in a quest to reduce the long distance women travel to have their children vaccinated against measles and polio, among other diseases.

Kalaso said they decided to embark on the development as women in their community have been walking long distance to access the vaccination facilities to have their children immunized.

“Women are currently walking long distance to Malepela Health centre and in some areas they are using a grass thatched room as a clinic and the room cannot accommodate many people at once and when it rains, parents failed to come for the immunization and when it is too hot they are made to stand in the sun.

“For this reason we consulted the Health Surveillance Assistant (HAS) of our area about our plan to build an under five clinic and we were provided with a plan from Kasungu district hospital and we are now constructing the clinic,” said Kalasa.

She added that, they managed to mobilize funds for the construction of the clinic and she said that the clinic will be opened soon.

Apart from constructing the clinic, the mother care group also helps in encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated, the mother care group walks door to door to remind parents to take their children for immunization.

In a separate interview, Kasungu District HospitalCold Chain Technician, Esau Chakulangira hailed Mother Care Groups for good job taking place in the districts.

“This is commendable because these shelters completed will be able to accommodate many people at once and since they are at the centre of the surrounding villages, parents will not be walking long distances to have their babies immunized.

He said “Currently,83 percent of children from within Kasungu District Hospital are fully immunized but our main goal is to reach 90 percent and this can only be possible with good infrastructure like the one which is being constructed by the mother care group,” she explained.

About Extended Immunization Programme; The vision of the programme is to keep Malawian children free from vaccine preventable diseases. The programme aims at reducing infant morbidity and mortality rates due to vaccine preventable diseases by providing quality immunization services.

The programme currently provides the following vaccines to children less than one year of age: Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine against T.B, Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) against Polio, Measles vaccine against measles, Diptheria,Tetanus,Pertussis+Hepatitis B + Haemophilus influenzae vaccine (DPT-HepB+Hib or Pentavalent vaccine) against Diptheria,Tetanus,Pertussis, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B Pnuemococal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV 13) against bacterial pneumonia.

Other vaccines include; Rotavirus vaccine against severe diarrhea caused by rotavirus. The programme also provides Tetanus Toxoid vaccine for pregnant women and women of child bearing age.

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