Vanuatu Immunization Program Hindered In Hard To Reach Areas

Only 29% of children are vaccinated, making them vulnerable to disease outbreaks

By Anita Roberts

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, May 5, 2017) – One of the things hindering the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) outreach in Vanuatu is that some of the communities are hard to reach.

EPI is when children are brought to health facilities to be immunized proved inadequate in preventing recurrent epidemics of vaccine-preventable disease.

Immunization shots or vaccination protects infant and children early in life against childhood illnesses like measles and whooping cough.

Communities when not vaccinated tend to experience disease outbreaks.

One of the hard to reach EPI zone is Big Bay bush, in the northern part of Santo, where some children are not fully immunized or have not received all of their vaccines.

One factor contributing to this is the lack of transport to supply vaccines from town to the health center or from health facility to communities.

Big Bay is a three-hour drive from Luganville. Most of the drive is through a difficult terrain that requires a 4-wheel-drive on unpaved paths crossing mountains and rivers. It is very risky during rainy seasons.

For many years, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been assisting the Ministry of Health (MOH) to ensure all vulnerable children are protected from diseases.

Just recently, the humanitarian organization provided a new vehicle for the Big Bay‘s Sara Mauri Health Centre.

The vehicle will be used to reach more children, to facilitate vaccine supply from Luganville and at the same time, to respond to general emergency referrals.

UNICEF has also provided vehicles to other health facilities in other provinces to continue to promote immunization coverage and equity.

Big Bay’s Sara Mauri Health Centre is managed by Nurse Susana Wokeke.

According to UNICEF, she faced difficulties when dealing with emergencies.

“She had to deal with the state of health centre and the practice of medicine.

“Many of the villages surrounding the health centre follow the indigenous traditional way of life.

“They are completely disconnected from everything “new” and this includes something as old as electricity.

“People prefer to heal sickness traditionally.

“Susan found herself struggling to convince people that although she knows nothing about traditional medicine, she is fully capable of helping them heal.

“It took her ten years of relentlessly educating villagers about her work.

“With only 29% of Vanuatu’s children fully immunized, this is an issue of grave concern to people like Susan and to organizations like us (UNICEF)who supporting vaccination in Vanuatu,” UNICEF stressed.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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