By William J. Mbangula
Unicef Goodwill Ambassador Yvonne Chaka Chaka has urged all parents to know when, why, where and how many times their children should be immunized in order to protect them against preventable diseases such as polio and cholera.
Speaking at the joint launch of the immunization campaign at the border town of Helao Nafidi on Monday, Chaka Chaka said Africa has plenty of resources which can be used to help combat such diseases. It was however shameful that despite the abundance of resources, about 1,7 million children die from communicable diseases, which can be easily prevented.
Said the South African singer: “Only last year, about 60 children out of 1 000 died in Namibia and 200 out of 1 000 died in Angola. It is therefore important to continue investing in immunization campaigns to ensure we are not caught off guard again. Parents need to know that it is safe to immunize their children even if the children have no illness or disability, or are not suffering from malnutrition. We need to mobilize institutions in society such as churches and the mass media so that they can better inform the parents and the entire communities about the importance of immunization, not only when we organise campaigns, but to demand this service all year round.”
Chaka Chaka, who was appointed Unicef Goodwill Ambassador for Southern and Eastern Africa in April 2005, further noted that unless the people make sure that every child gets fully immunized and all the people unite to save and protect children, countries affected will not be able to achieve health related Millennium Development Goals.
Speaking at the same event, Health and Social Services Minister Dr Richard Kamwi said previous experience has demonstrated that national immunization campaigns are the most effective strategies in the eradication of childhood killer diseases and the elimination of vitamin A deficiency.
The potential to save children’s lives continues to expand with scientific and technological advances such as vaccines and diagnostic methods. New attention and resources for international health and development make such opportunities available for the children and women.
In Namibia, noted the minister, it is the intention to make this year’s polio and vitamin A campaign successful. The aim would, amongst others, be to reach every household and child particularly in marginalized populations, to maintain confidence and enthusiasm among health workers and volunteers through regular outreach services, recognise progress and improvement and to further improve routine immunization and basic health services especially targeting under-served areas and families.
Kamwi called on Namibians to render assistance and actively cooperate to make the campaign a success. He thanked the UN agencies such as WHO, Unicef and others in the campaign for their tireless efforts. He lauded the DRC and Angola for their cooperation and participation in the campaign.
Such collaboration would ensure the effectiveness of the respective national programmes which are very inter-dependent.
The occasion was also addressed by the Angolan Deputy Minister of Health Dr Jose van Dunem, DRC Ambassador to Angola Dr Eric Kamavu, WHO Country Representative Dr Claudia Mandhlate and Unicef Deputy Regional Director Dorethea Rozga.
Launched under the theme: “Kick Polio out of Africa together”, the synchronized immunization campaign, the first ever to be held in the SADC region, is a continuation of the commitment made during the 1988 World Health Assembly by 166 states which dedicated themselves to the eradication of polio from the world by the year 2000.
The resolution was reaffirmed at the 1990 World Summit for Children. In Namibia, the national polio and vitamin A campaign will run from June 27 to 29 and from July 25 to 27, 2007.
During the first round, children up to 59 months (five years) will be given oral polio drops nationwide and children in the age group of 9 to 59 months will receive vitamin A supplementation during the second round.