World Immunization Week begins April 20, and what better way to participate than by saving or protecting a life through a donation to The Eliminate Project. Just US$1.80 will protect one woman and her future babies. And, millions of women in remote locations of 30 countries still need to be immunized.
One of the most important ways that UNICEF gets vaccines—including tetanus—to those hardest to reach is through village outreach services. Trained health workers visit local villages to provide basic services, like routine childhood immunizations, tetanus toxoid vaccines for women of childbearing age and Vitamin A supplements for infants.
In February, I visited the village of Prey Khlong in Kampong Speu province of Cambodia and saw first-hand what a typical outreach visit looks like. Prey Khlong has 500 residents. The job of the volunteer outreach worker, who lives in Prey Khlong, is to mobilize the residents to attend the health outreach day. She attends quarterly meetings at the local health center to receive information about what activities are happening over the next three months. She also provides her home as a staging location where people go to receive health services.
On this particular visit, the nurse set up her supplies on a small, wooden table under a tree in the volunteer’s front yard. Women and children lined up to receive health services. As each woman approached the nurse, they would hand her an immunization card. The nurse would check their card against the village health registry and then would administer the proper vaccine. Many infants were immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Hib disease—all in one shot. Some women also received a tetanus toxoid vaccination.
“The volunteer told me the nurse was coming today,” said Chum Rata. “I brought my child to receive vaccinations and also to see if I needed another tetanus vaccination. I am happy that the health workers are here in my village, bringing these services to me and my children.”
Without outreach services, many children in Prey Khlong would not receive routine immunizations. Some villages are very far from a local health center, and getting transportation to the health center can be difficult for poor families. Monthly outreach in these remote areas brings health services to those who need it most. — Jo Lynn Garing