Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an International NGO has started to implement a large-scale measles vaccination campaign in support of the local health authorities to help combat another measles outbreak in Chad.
Aimé Ndouh Kassir, coordinator of MSF’s community activities, said measles epidemic is recurrent in Bédiondo health district, Mandoul province, in southern Chad due to lack of access to health centres, poor roads, and difficulties in maintaining a cold chain when outside temperatures exceed 40°C, which makes it difficult to organise routine vaccination activities.
According to him, it took MSF teams a month to recruit and train the 252 people who were sent out to the district for vaccination.
“In collaboration with the health centres, fixed vaccination points were set up in the centre of the villages. In addition, huge awareness-raising work was carried out beforehand with the community.”
“We trained 114 community mobilisers from the surrounding area,” Kassir said, adding that “these community mobilisers went around the villages to inform people about our presence and the possibility of being vaccinated.”
He said parents must understand the importance of vaccination and the health risks of the disease to ensure community participation.
The health organisation said about 20,000 bottles of 10 doses of vaccine were sent from N’Djamena, the capital for an effective vaccination for children between 14 months and 14 years.
This target group, according to the Coordinator, was estimated by the health authorities at around 134,000 people.
“But the precise number remained challenging to define, because of the lack of the accurate number of people living in these isolated dwellings and urban centres that are also commercial crossroads with Cameroon and Central African Republic. Despite the visit of the team the day before to raise awareness in a particular village, the number of vaccinations did not end up to the estimated number of children.”
“The village’s deputy chief became involved in the campaign as a spokesperson for our health promotion messages. Through his knowledge of the village, he helped identify children who had not been vaccinated and went to speak directly with their parents,” Kassir said.
“As we finished vaccinating the children in Ndila, Mob Hadjirébaye Djimtangar, a community worker from the village, told us about a nomadic herders’ camp nearby. People here were reluctant at the beginning, but we managed to convince them with the help of the traditional chief of the canton. Eventually, they agreed to have their children vaccinated,” he said.
“Once trust was established, they guided us to other families and we were able to vaccinate 128 more children,” Kassir continues. “These groups were not in the loop of the health authorities. A real team effort enabled us to protect them too.”
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