22 June 2022, Babati - Ahead of the accelerated COVID-19 vaccination campaign across 26 regions of the United Republic of Tanzania, WHO has advocated for strengthened community approach to enable social accountability for increased and sustainable uptake of COVID-19 vaccination to protect the populations from the pandemic.
At a recent stakeholders’ advocacy and community engagement meeting presided by the Regional Commissioner of Manyara region, Acting WHO Representative to Tanzania, Dr. Zabulon Yoti represented by the Risk Communication and Communication Consultant, Chima Onuekwe, reiterated the importance of community ownership and accountability of the COVID-19 response through sustainable uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations and other public and social preventive measures. “Partnering with community stakeholders has long been recognized by WHO as cornerstones of efforts to achieve sustainable health outcomes including in COVID-19 prevention and control”, said Dr. Chima.
Speaking at the event, the Regional Commissioner of Manyara Region, Mr. Charles Makongoro Nyerere charged District Commissioners, the regional health management team, heads of security agencies and community leaders to ensure that Manyara, currently the least performing region in the country, triples her current coverage by the end of the 6-day campaign.
“It is unacceptable that Manyara will occupy the lowest position on COVID-19 vaccinations performance among all regions of Tanzania,” said Mr. Nyerere. “I charge all hands-on deck, led by the district commissioners, councilors, directors, community and religious leaders to change Manyara’s narrative of the COVID-19 response,” emphasized the Regional Commissioner.
He expressed optimism that WHO’s technical and financial support to the region is handsome enough to change the vaccination coverage figures. While assuring strengthened community ownership of COVID-19 response in the region, Nyerere reiterated that community engagement was a critical driver of success during the AIDS epidemic, when activists raised awareness, educated individuals about strategies to reduce their risk, and advocated for timely governmental response. He urged all partners that a similar approach can be used to achieve high COVID-19 vaccination coverage in the region.
Manyara is one of the 26 regions in the United Republic of Tanzania located in the northern part of Tanzania. According to the 2012 Census, the region is a home of 1,425,131 population living in five administrative districts divided in seven local administrative councils. The region has a total of 142 wards and 448 villages. According to the most recent statistics of the Ministry of Health (MOH), as of 15th June 2022, Manyara region has attained only 3.7% of COVID-19 vaccination coverage of its target population.
The advocacy and community engagement activities continues at the respective districts, councils, wards and communities to ensure an increased uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations. Community approach to COVID-19 vaccination entails community-led vaccination exercises to implement door-to-door vaccination, vaccination at community events including in social functions, outreaches in churches, markets, and busy terminals to ensure that no one is left behind.
In public health, effective community engagement promotes a mutual and two-way exchange of information, ideas and resources between community members and the health department. While the health department shares its health expertise, services and other resources with the community through this process, the community can share its own wisdom and experiences to help guide public health programme efforts.
Other partners including Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and Johns Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics (JHPIEGO) will join WHO to support the processes through implementation, supportive supervision, monitoring and post campaign evaluation. The campaign will empower the community to respond to similar health needs and contribute to preventing diseases and saving lives.
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