It’s almost midday as 20 women gather around a wood heater in a small house in Deir Hafer town of eastern rural Aleppo, Syria. Many of the women had come from faraway villages for a visit with one woman, Amina.
Amina, 41, is a widowed mother of three and one of the very few women working as a health educator in the area; providing mothers with valuable information on the safety and importance of vaccines.
Although she herself dropped out of school in Grade 3, Amina is rather influential in her community.
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Following a respite in violence in 2017, families started returning to their destroyed homes in the eastern rural villages after years of displacement, amidst a severe lack of services, including for health and immunization. This has forced most of the children to miss out on their vaccinations due to violence, multiple displacements and interrupted access to these services.
“[Something] I discovered through my sessions with the women is that they lack information about available public services and what vaccinations and health services their children need,” says Amina.
To ensure every child in remote areas is vaccinated, UNICEF-supported health workers carried out trainings for 11 local women in seven villages in eastern rural Aleppo, teaching them how to provide counseling sessions for mothers and pregnant women on the importance of immunization in protecting their children against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Trained health workers also attend these sessions with the women to ensure the quality of the information provided.
With her lively and social character, Amina communicates important messages on healthcare and immunization in a simple language, using relatable examples from the everyday lives of villagers. She talks to mothers about the safety and importance of vaccines, explains how vaccines work and answers any questions they may have.
“I deliver weekly sessions for women from my hometown and neighbouring villages, I feel like I have done my job right when a mother rushes to vaccinate her children after leaving my house!” says Amina.
Ghazieh, 36, is one of these women. The mother of seven told other mothers attending Amina’s session about her experience. Seven years ago, her one-month old baby girl Yasmine died.
“Because she had received her vaccines a few days before, I wrongly assumed that vaccines were dangerous and stopped vaccinating my children,” explains Ghazieh.
As part of the one week-nation-wide vaccination campaign against polio, UNICEF, WHO and partners reached over 320,000 children under five with the life-saving vaccine in Aleppo governorate. Around 800 health workers took part in the campaign supported by UNICEF, who provided vaccines and cold chain equipment, through 50 health centres and 120 mobile teams with thanks to a generous contribution by the Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).
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