Tanzania

Reaching nomadic communities with COVID-19 vaccines in Manyara

As the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 disease enters the third day in Manyara region, Tanzania, WHO is providing intensified technical and financial support to the region to ensure that no one is left behind in the critical campaign. WHO has moved a step further to avert inequity among intended populations for the exercise especially the nomadic populations. The nomadic populations, in most campaigns, though usually planned for, are not easily accessible due to the mobile nature of their work. Hence, a special arrangement is always required to ensure that they are reached with essential health services during campaigns.

Hagai Kisiri Kivuyo, 42, a nomadic herder in Babati district council, Manyara region. and his wife, Laufl Hagai, 35, belong to a family of nomads who have travelled for decades between mountain pastures during hot seasons and grazing grounds during dry seasons, herding their goats, sheep and cows. On the third day of the first comprehensive vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in the region, Hagai and his wife were vaccinated in their pasture camp in Manyara region.

“It could have been quite an effort to visit the nearest health facility for COVID-19 vaccination because that would require some time off my normal work, money and stress,” says Hagai. “Thanks for bringing the vaccine closer to us. I am happy now that my wife and I am protected from COVID-19,” says the herder.

Public health experts agree that a world without COVId-19 is only possible when everyone, everywhere, has equal access to COVID-19 vaccines as at and when due. Simply put, it means that all people, wherever they are in the world, should have equal access to a vaccine that protects against COVID-19 infection. Inequitable vaccine distribution is not only leaving millions of people vulnerable to the deadly virus, it is also allowing even more deadly variants to emerge and spread across the globe.

But reaching the nomadic population remains a major challenge even when COVID-19 national deployment plans provides for populations of concerns including the nomads, refugees, internally displaced and other populations most-at-risk.

The Regional Commissioner of Manyara Region, Mr. Charles Makongoro Nyerere explained that COVID-19 vaccines must be taken closer to the nomadic herders wherever they are to ensure vaccine equity between the accessible and hard-to-access populations in the region. “Majority of our people are nomadic herders and always on the move from the east to the west of the country in search of green pastures for their herds,” says Mr. Nyerere. “It is imperative that they are reached wherever they are with COVID-19 vaccines, and with the variety that provides for single dose otherwise they might remain missed.”

Inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines will leave many people more vulnerable to the deadly disease than others especially nomads, people living in humanitarian settings, the elderly and people living with co-morbidities. The Acting WHO Country Representative, Tanzania, Dr. Zabulon Yoti reaffirms that equitable delivery of COVID-19 vaccines across the nooks and crannies of Tanzania will increase uptake, population immunity and decrease infections and spread of the disease.

“No citizen is more deserving than the other, no matter how rich or poor, white or black, living in rural or urban centres, mainland or island, infectious diseases like COVID-19 will remain a global threat as long it is harboured anywhere in the world,” says Dr. Yoti.