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Health Volunteers – a Key to Immunize Every Child

posted Apr 26, 2018, 1:16 AM by GAVI CSO   [ updated Apr 26, 2018, 1:25 AM ]
By Zakia Malik, Program Manager 

Sadaf and Khalil are two of REEDS 52 dedicated frontline health volunteers who are at the heart of efforts to keep every child vaccinated in Union Council 178/7R, Liaqat Pur. 

Rural Education and Economic Development Society (REEDS) is an established a network of health volunteers in Liaqat Pur, Pakistan who support the district outreach program in the hardest to reach areas. Sadaf Khalil and Khalil Masih (pictured) are two volunteer vaccinators who work with REEDS to raise community awareness of health services and vaccination campaigns. All REEDS volunteers are working towards the same goal – to ensure every child is vaccinated. 

Sadaf and Khalil, are parents of three children, and have been health volunteers for the last two years. They fit their work with REEDS around childcare and the usual hustle and bustle of family life. Some of their core duties include talking to other parents to address their concerns about vaccination, identifying children who have not been vaccinated, and to oversee the effective vaccination campaigns. “We enjoy serving our people. And as a parent, it’s our duty to protect all children from diseases”, says Khalil. 

The Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme has come a long way toward building a future in which polio no longer endangers children, families, and communities. Pakistan is still polio endemic but cases have dropped from 306 in 2014 to just 8 cases in 2017.

Unfortunately, campaigns were not reaching all children – with some areas reporting that 35% of children has been missed. Vaccination teams would go door to do, “but without any avail due to parents irresponsible attitude and farm activities.” REEDS local team volunteers and social mobilization have been working in this area to support Immunization awareness activities, and alongside leadership from the Government Health Department, there has been a huge increase in the number of parents taking interest in their vaccines.

Sadaf and Khalil emphasize the importance of training and being properly prepared for working in the local community. “Illiterate parents usually have many questions and if they cannot answer even one, the chances that they refuse to vaccinate their children increases,” says Khalil.

Before immunisation campaigns begin, REEDS health volunteers, including Sadaf and Khalil, gather at BHU for training and planning sessions – these are organized jointly by the District Health Authorities and REEDS. Volunteers discuss and learn about how to talk to parents about the importance of vaccination, as well as how to successfully respond to the many tough questions or situations they may encounter. After training, the volunteers go to their target villages, and are driven around announcing the upcoming polio and measles campaign. This is done through mosque announcements and, where necessary, going to individual houses and huts on foot, knocking on doors.

 “We generally don’t face any problems during campaigns as most families are familiar with the importance of vaccination due to our Immunization mobilization campaigns and they want to vaccinate their children. If families are hesitant, we try to encourage them by giving them information about the benefits of the vaccine. If they still reject the vaccine, we ask our supervisors to come and help convince them. I have never met a family who refused the vaccine in the end,” Sadaf says. 

Largely thanks to the REEDS health volunteer and polio vaccinators who have turned out each month to provide vaccinations door-to-door, as well as in public spaces and at transit points, many more children in Union Council 178-7R are vaccinated. 

You can learn more about the work which REEDS volunteers undertake in this short video (Click here to see the video).