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Saving Every Woman, Every Child

 

POLIO ERADICATION IN AFGHANISTAN

Polio is a highly contagious disease that spreads easily where there is poverty, lack of sanitation and lack of basic health care. It paralyzes many of its young victims, sometimes ending with death.

For only the second time in human history, we stand on the brink of eradicating a life-threatening disease. Polio is endemic in only three countries: Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

Canada has been an unwavering supporter of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), of which UNICEF is a founding member, along with the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since GPEI was founded in 1988, mass vaccination and communication efforts, the number of polio cases worldwide has decreased by 99.9 percent.

Canadian support has helped UNICEF work with the Government of Afghanistan to vaccinate more than seven million children each year against polio. As a result of these and other efforts, Afghanistan has had a 62 percent decrease in the number of polio cases reported in just one year and a drop of 80 percent since 2011.

Canada is the biggest government donor to UNICEF’s polio program in Afghanistan, helping to bring the country closer to complete eradication.

 

Unsung heroes in the fight against polio

Female vaccinators hold the key to eradicating polio from Afghanistan. UNICEF met with one of these heroes, Rahila, to talk about her work. Here is what she had to say:

Three days before the vaccination campaign starts, we go house-to-house to dot-mark the houses. Each dot on the wall or the door of the house represents a child in that household. The vaccinators vaccinate all children less than 5 years of age.

In some areas where we work, some families do not allow us to vaccinate their children. Some communities do not like women walking house-to-house in the streets. The main challenge for social mobilizers and the vaccinators is that families sometimes think that the vaccine is not good for their children, or they complain about too many campaigns, so we, the vaccinators and social mobilizers have to help them understand why it is so important to vaccinate every child in every campaign and we have to convince them that the vaccine is safe for their children.Working in Kandahar as a female is very tough. First, most women have to convince their own families that it is good work for a good cause, that it is safe and that we will be working mainly with other women.

I have been working as a social mobilizer for polio for a few years now, and I continue to face challenges while working in communities. I am often criticized for working outside the house and for being engaged in this program, but I continue to work because I believe it is my right to contribute to making my community better and I believe it is our children’s right to be protected from polio.

 

FOOD SECURITY IN ETHIOPIA

The Government of Ethiopia has made much progress in improving food and nutrition security over the

last decades. However, along with poverty, frequent disasters related to climate change, including droughts, floods and landslides, exasperate food and nutrition insecurity in the country.

The Government of Canada has been supporting UNICEF’s work with the Ethiopian government to improve nutrition security for mothers and children. The program is providing Community-Based Nutrition services to reduce stunting, ensure pregnant and lactating women are well-nourished and children are exclusively breastfed and then introduced to complementary nutritious food after 6 months of age.

Since 2011:

  • 1.6 million children in 100 underserved districts were reached by 28,000 health workers trained in Community Based Nutrition.
  • 90,000 severely malnourished children received lifesaving treatment.
  • 225,000 people gained access to improved water systems and 760,000 people gained access to latrines.

The program is placing emphasis on local solutions and accelerating efforts to break the vicious cycle of drought, hunger and poverty by promoting resilience strategies.

 

Protecting children and empowering communities

In 2011, when much of eastern Ethiopia was affected by a serious drought, Bedria Yuya learned that one of her eight-month-old twins, Hehumati Shemsedin, was severely underweight. Hehumati’s condition was discovered during a monthly growth-monitoring session in her village of Kebso Tekoma.

Hehumati was referred for treatment at the nearest health post where he was entered into the outpatient program. Bedria received a week’s supply of Plumpy’Nut and a bottle of antibiotics to treat any infections along with instructions on how to administer the medication.

Monthly community sessions to monitor and promote the growth of children under two represent one of the pillars of community based nutrition. The program empowers communities to assess the nutritional status of their children and take action using their own resources to prevent malnutrition. With the help of the Canadian government, mothers like Bedria can keep their children healthy and well-nourished, preventing long-term under-nutrition which can have an irreversible negative impact on mental and physical development.

 

STRENGTHENING HEALTH SYSTEMS

Malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea are the main killers of children under five globally. The Government of Canada has partnered with UNICEF to integrate treatment and prevention of these diseases at the community level into the health systems of six countries in Africa with the aim of ending preventable deaths.

The Catalytic Initiative/Integrated Health System Strengthening Program, has played a critical role in ensuring that the hardest to reach children in Ethiopia,Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, and Niger have access to basic health services, helping reduce under five mortality.

The program has supported the governments of these countries to train, equip and deploy 62,000 community health workers to diagnose and treat children for these dangerous and debilitating diseases.

The program has supported the development of national policies for the integration of community case management of pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria – playing a critical role in saving lives in the most remote communities.

 

Community health workers bring hope for the future

The village of Tiegouecourani in Mali has seen the death of many children before their fi fth birthday, mainly from pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea. But this is changing.

With the arrival of newly trained community health workers – men and women who are now based in far flung villages to reach the most isolated populations furthest from the health centres – mothers from the village, like Ramata Traoré, have reason to hope that their children will survive and thrive.

Diallo Aramatou Niamélé is the community health worker who has brought hope to mothers like Ramata. Ramata took her young son Adama to Diallo when he became ill. Diallo was able to quickly diagnose Adama’s severe case of malaria. Before the arrival of the community health worker it is unlikely that Adama would have ever received any formal health care, but Diallo was able to impress upon Ramata the severity of Adama’s illness and given how sick he was, refer him for treatment at the nearest health centre. Adama received treatment and is doing well.

Through Canada’s support, this program is strengthening the national health system and bringing health care to isolated communities giving the most vulnerable children a future.

 

REACHING THE HARDEST TO REACH

In some of the most remote parts of the world, the Canadian government is supporting UNICEF to bring lifesaving services to children and mothers, helping to ensure more children than ever are able to survive past their fifth birthday, and their mothers are healthy and well-nourished.

Across 33 African countries at outreach events known as Child Health Days (CHDs), or weeks, national governments ensure health providers are able to reach children who would not otherwise be reached by the regular healthcare system.

With Canada’s support 180 million children were reached through CHDs and 144,000 lives were saved between 2010 and 2013. CHDs are a ‘one stop shop’, where
children receive vitamin A supplements to boost immunity and prevent
blindness; de-worming medication to treat intestinal worms and irondeficiency; routine immunization; and monitoring for their nutritional status.

In many countries, CHDs are also used to support the health and nutrition of mothers by providing tetanus toxoid vaccines, iron supplementation, HIV screening, and malaria treatment and prevention for pregnant women.

As well as front-line services to millions of families, CHDs also help countries build stronger health systems as CHD services are integrated into each country’s wider health programs.

 

Integrating birth registration and health services

Rose Wisdom rocks her baby girl back and forth. Mami is only two weeks old and appears uncomfortable with the heat and the bustle around her in Chikun, northern Nigeria.

After having her newborn daughter registered, Rose is waiting in line to vaccinate Mami at a Child Health Day in the state of Kaduna.

In Nigeria, only 42 percent of births are registered. Children in the poorest families have birth registration rates of less than 10 percent.

To reach the millions of unregistered children across the country many states in Nigeria, since 2010, have begun linking Child Health Days with birth registration efforts. With Canadian support, CHDs in Nigeria are helping ensure more children are registered at birth, receive lifesaving vaccines and vitamin A supplements.

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