By Chinyere Amalu
HER one-year-old son firmly tied to her back, Hadiza dragged her two-year old daughter inside the houseÂ where she lived in Kafrim-Liman, settlement in Ganjuwa Local government area of Bauchi State and slammed the door shut.
The 25-year old mother had just refused to let vaccinators immunise her children with the oral polio vaccine (OPV). In Hausa, she vehemently declared that never again wouldÂ either of her children get imminised after her little girl developed an abcess on her buttockÂ after a previous immunisation.
It took the intervention of the District Head who offeredÂ gifts of detergent and sweets before Hadiza succumbed. Such is the
Hadiza is oneÂ of thousands of caregivers who decline toÂ comply with the Immunisation Plus Days (IPDs) exercise. ThoughÂ compliance has improved across the nation, there are still challenges.
But with the introduction of pluses, more children are being immunised, yet there is danger in using pluses that are not of medical benefit to the communiy. For instance sweets. Â ThoughÂ not a bribe, the incentive has been effective as caregivers seem to prefer being given detergents and sweets to looking after the health of their lovely children.
Abubakar Bibi, Ward Focal Person Dan,Aamara B WardÂ in Bauchi LG, â€œPluses enable the children to come out enmasse. Even their parents who initaially refused to comply, once given the detergent, bring out their children for immunisation, however,Â it seems the pluses have corrupted them. Their motto now is like â€œno pluses, no immunizationâ€.
However, the Director of Primary Health Bauchi LGA, Mudi Ariconw has a different opinion. He believes pluses help in tracking the non-compliant households. â€œIf government concentrates on the pluses, there will be no problem. There is nothing wrong in giving incentivesÂ to parents and children in order to get them immunised. It should be encouraged.
All over the world, giving incentives encourages mass participation in exercise like immunization, but the difference is that in a developed country, they are given in the hospital not when services are brought to your door step like it is done in Nigeria. Government brings health services to the door step of the citizens, but has to offer something to enable them comply.
Chairman Primary Health Development Bauchi state, Dr. Dambam Mohammed said:â€œwhen the issue of pluses was introduced it was not aimed at bribing anybody. We just realized that this is the only single programme that has given opportunity to health workers to reach greater number of people at a particular time.
Dambam added that sweets may not have medical benefits but came as an after thought. â€œWhen we introduced the issue of street immunisation, we found out that we cannot reach all the children especially those without homes. Many children were found in the playground, so to attract them, we introduced sweets and it is working effectively.
Now the biggest challenge is getting the caregivers to accept that health of their children comes first, not the pluses.â€