A vaccination campaign against measles in the Kisanga Health Zone

We are Bora, Shukra, Josue and Moraine, we all live in the city of Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Lubumbashi is the second largest city and is considered the Congolese capital of copper, it is also known thanks to its football team, the famous Tout Puissant Mazembe, the first African club that played at the final of the Club World Cup against a great European team the Inter Milan in 2010 in Abu Dhabi.

As Young Reporters, we are concerned with the matters affecting the rights of the child, especially the right to health (article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child).
Indeed, during the month of October 2015, information had circulated on radio and television that a measles outbreak, which was believed to be over, had restarted in some parts of our province of Katanga, and had caused numerous deaths among small children in Lubumbashi and elsewhere.

This news deeply saddened us and we had to ask the following questions: what did these children have to die? Had they not been vaccinated against measles before their first birthday as they are supposed to be according to UNICEF’s immunization schedule (which we had learnt about through the promotion of six essential family practices)? What steps had to be taken now that there was an outbreak and children were at risk?

To find answers to these questions, we decided to go to the hospital in the Kisanga neighborhood which is part of the Kisanga health zone, this area is located at the exit on the road to Zambia and South Africa on the outskirts of Lubumbashi. It is inhabited by a predominantly poor population.

Our visit took place the morning of Sunday 25th October, we met a few families, parents and children, then we went to visit the doctors responsible for the Health Zone, and finally the team responsible for vaccination in the Health Zone. Among the population, a family that had welcomed us caught our attention. Papa Pastor and his wife said in the interview that there are some parents in the neighborhood who do not bring their children to get vaccinated, this may be one of the causes behind the revival of the epidemic. They also told us that some people when it comes to making a choice between vaccinating their child or taking care of something else, give low priority to vaccinating their children. Fortunately they told us that these people are rare compared to those who give priority to their children’s vaccination. They also told us that some religious or traditional beliefs also play a big role in the low vaccination rates, for example: “vaccines are dangerous because they will make children sterile when they grow up, marking the fingers of children after administering the vaccine is a diabolic, vaccines is the cause of many cases of anemia in children and causes many deaths;»

We interviewed one of their children, he was 11 years old, and he recognized the importance of vaccination that he had learned in school but did not seem to distinguish between the different vaccines. He then revealed that one of his little brothers had not been vaccinated, and it was one day before the close of the campaign. We founphoto2d the doctor responsible for the Kisanga Health Zone in a meeting with the vaccinator team. Non-compliance with hygiene conditions in families, population displacement and non-compliance with the immunization schedule parents, would be the main causes of this situation, according to the doctor, he also said that only one case of non-vaccinated children can put at risk a large number of children. The reappearance of measles can also be caused by the mobility of people since the Kisanga health zone is at the entrance of the city of Lubumbashi, an area of a lot of movement. But the government with the support of its partners, especially UNICEF, made efforts to immunize all children to prevent what happened. The campaign involves all children, even those aged up to 15 years.

According to the physician in charge, mobilizing parents for this campaign has played a very important role in its success, something we confirmed when in the hospital where they vaccinated.
There were many children accompanied by their parents or their elders, these children were between 2 and 10 years old. The team of vaccinators on the ground consisted of three women and one man, they all were happy to welcome children, and a few small children cried scared even before they were stung by the vaccine’s needle.

We appreciate the authoritie’s initiative and of their partner UNICEF to organize this campaign, but we wish that in the future measles like other vaccine-preventable diseases can no longer kill small children as they did in the past.

Children’s health should be regarded as universal right for children and an obligation for parents, and especially for our authorities who are committed to complying with all articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including Article 24 paragraph 1 which states that “States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.”

We urge the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo to further support vaccination programmes, UNICEF to continue to support the DRC government, and finally to the donors and all people of good heart to support actions meant to strengthen the health sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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