My child and my cattle

Report
from Global Polio Eradication Initiative
Published on 04 Feb 2013 View Original

GPEI joins with livestock authorities to protect the health of nomadic families and that of their herds

In January 2013, thousands of livestock owners are waiting in the camp of Hadjer Lamis close to the border with Cameroon. They are preparing to cross the border to move their herds in search of new grazing for the next few months. “We are staying there for few days to vaccinate our livestock before crossing the border, and will stay in Cameroon for three or four months,” said Adoum, one of the nomadic leaders in the camp.

In Chad, the mobility and the dispersion of mobile livestock owners lead to difficulties in reaching them with health services as well as with information and education. The prevalence of fully immunized nomadic children and women is extremely low, exposing them to a wide range of preventable diseases.

“Outreach human vaccination services rarely exist for nomadic groups. Reaching them is vital. Analyses show that preventable diseases disproportionately affect nomadic children. This is an under-served segment of the population,” has expressed the Governor of Hadjer Lamis. The Chadian Ministries of Health and of Livestock Production (in charge of veterinary services), together with Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners, non-governmental organizations and the nomadic communities organized joint human and livestock vaccination campaigns in this region where nomadic groups are seasonally located. Pastoralist communities highly value the combined approach that considers the health of their family members and of their livestock.

“It is the first time my children get vaccinated. I was aware about this campaign through the social mobilizers deployed in the camp. I need my children to be protected, as I am concerned and scared about deaths as a result of preventable diseases. As parents, I have the responsibility to ensure my children are healthy,” said Amina Brahim, 20, and mother of two children.

During the 10-days intensive immunization campaign, thousands of children under five years of age have been vaccinated and received routine immunizations, a simple and highly effective way to protect them from polio, diphtheria, tetanus and measles-rubella. Women between 15 to 49 years of age have been vaccinated against tetanus. Mobile teams have been posted in the camp to make sure not a single child is missed. “We found out that there were communities that were never being reached, either by the supplementary days or by the routine immunizations. The public health sector should use this kind of campaign as a gateway to the pastoralists. This may become a model for others who face similar difficulties in reaching remote livestock keepers” stated Gianluca Flamigni, UNICEF Chief of Polio in Chad.

Chad authorities and partners need to double efforts to reach populations that are entirely cut-off from health and other social services. The joint vaccination campaign approach is innovative, appreciated by nomadic pastoralists and less expensive than separate vaccination. By using the mobility of veterinarians in remote zones far from health care facilities, vaccination can be provided to nomadic children and women in countries with limited resources.