Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reaching the fifth child in northern Viet Nam’s Lao Cai province

UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on an immunization programme in rural Viet Nam.

24–30 April is World Immunization Week. Immunization is a successful and cost-effective way to save children’s lives. UNICEF has been a driving force behind universal immunization since the 1980s – behind reaching each and every child.

UNICEF and its partners are now intensifying their efforts to ensure that the poorest and most disadvantaged children have access to immunization.

LAO CAI PROVINCE, Viet Nam, 17 April 2013 – It’s Immunization Day at designated health centres in northern Viet Nam’s Lao Cai province. Parents have brought their children to be vaccinated or to receive their follow-up doses.

Giang Thi Mu has brought her 9-month-old daughter Hang Thi Thu to the Tram Y Te Xa sub-district health centre to get her shots. “I heard about this immunization day when health workers came to our community to inform our village and tell us about vaccination,” she says.


Bringing immunization to remote villages
The Tram Y Te Xa sub-district health centre is nestled at the foot of a mountain about a half-hour drive from the town of Sapa. The centre serves a community of 4,633 people spread across six villages. Various hill tribe ethnic minorities live in this remote, mountainous region near the border with China; many, including Giang Thi Mu, belong to the Hmong minority.

The Tram Y Te Xa sub-district health centre in Lao Cai province is holding an Immunization Day today. Mothers have heard about the event through community outreach. (c) UNICEF Video
Like Giang Thi Mu, the mothers who have walked to the centre today heard about the vaccination drive through community outreach efforts. Giang Thi Mu didn’t have to walk far. Her village is just 500 metres away from the health centre.

“At the village, the health worker explained to me how important it is for my children to get vaccinated so they don’t get sick,” she says. There are 20 children in her village. All of them have been vaccinated, including Giang Thi Mu’s two older daughters, who are healthy, she says.

Saving children’s lives
Every year, vaccination prevents an estimated 2–3 million deaths in all age groups from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles. It’s one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions available against these diseases.

Programmes like this one in Viet Nam are part of intensified efforts by UNICEF and partners to reach the fifth child - that one in five children globally who is not immunized. (c) UNICEF Video
In 2011, across the world, four out of five infants were immunized against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. That’s more than ever before. But the fifth child is not being reached, and UNICEF and its partners are now concentrating their efforts to ensure that this fifth child also has access to immunization.

Whether they live in remote communities or city slums, whether they belong to ethnic minorities or marginalized groups, UNICEF is intensifying its commitment to reach the poorest and most disadvantaged children, those without access to education, health, protection and rights. Most live in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Scaling up efforts to reach the most vulnerable
UNICEF Viet Nam is scaling up its efforts to identify underserved populations and bring life-saving immunization services to them. It’s an effort UNICEF is undertaking all over the world, as well as improving vaccine supply chain management and strengthening community engagement. UNICEF also wants to introduce new and under-used vaccines to protect more children against preventable diseases.

That fifth child has a right to live, too.

By Sabine Dolan

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