BY ANGELA NKWO-AKPOLU
In its resolve to fight child-killer diseases, Imo State government sometime ago directed that all the over 600 primary health centres,PHCs, in the state would serve as centres for all primary healthcare activities in the state. ‘’The 600 health centres in the state will serve for the purpose of all primary healthcare activities, including routine immunisation, ante-natal, maternal and child care activities, including deliveries,” the government said.
According to the government, the epidemiological assessment had revealed that there had been reported cases of measles in Oguta, Oru West, Ohaji/Egbema, Oru East, Orlu and Ehime Mbano local council areas of the state The government was, however, irked that out of the the 37 cases reported in Oguta Local Government Area, five children died, while one out of the 45 cases in Oru West council area also died.
“These out-breaks were traceable to reduced immunity. It said for effective implementation of routine immunisation activities, the state government developed a policy to make it compulsory for all communities to own a health centre. Immunisation ensures that the child resists killer diseases,’’ it added. For every new born baby, there are certain drugs administered on the child to boost his or her immunity, and very important for ensuring the baby’s survival to adult age.
Immunisation is the process whereby a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease, typically by the administration of a vaccine. It stimulates the body’s own immune system to protect the person against subsequent infection or disease. Immunisation is a proven tool for life-threatening infectious diseases. However, beyond the actual act of administering the drug, there are silent intrigues that play out amongst the women, (who in this case are mothers to the infants) and the care-givers (this includes the nurses/midwives). Perhaps you always wonder what transpires at such gatherings.
For new mothers, immunisation is a new experience. They normally arrive early to ensure they do not miss out on any vital detail and this is where the drama begins. On arrival at the health centre, grading of each participant begins, without any spoken word! Ideally, immunisation is only handled at the primary health centres and hospitals that handle child deliveries and can administer drugs to at least 10 infants to avoid wasting of drugs.
For most new mothers (Primid) the norm is to stay at home for about three months, in an ideal situation, especially among the Igbo. For such women, all they do is stay home, learn the ropes on balancing their acts as wives and mothers, nurse their newborns (especially in this area of giving the baby only breast milk for six months; a term popularly called exclusive breast-feeding, and or being baby-friendly).
For many new mothers, the immunisation visit serves as an escape route from the sit-at-home mode. It is not uncommon to see such women to be the first to arrive the centre, beautifully adorned. In their quest to out-do everyone else, they wear clothes, all kinds of beautiful dresses to look girlish again. For most of these new mums, the past months of bearing long tummies, courtesy of the nine months pregnancy, has been quite an experience and retaining their pre-pregnancy state in terms of great shapes is a top wish, hence at the first chance of stepping out which may be as late as six weeks, immunisation is a breather many look forward to.
On arrival at the health facility, older women, especially nurses can make out such ladies. Simply because in their bid to show that they are now mothers, they tend to over-do things! They are easily identified by their buying sprees, they will buy almost anything shown to them as avenues of achieving a flat tummy or shedding excess weight, no thanks to unscrupulous business men and women!
They bring all sorts of things and give the notion that within a few days, flat tummy is achievable, selling nothing but cheap lies and deceit! New mothers are also identified by their shyness to breast-feed their babies in public, either because they are wrongly-dressed or do not know how to nurse their babies without being naked! When this scenario plays out, the older women in child-bearing giggle and make non-verbal signs to convey their amusement among themselves.
Before drugs are administered, there is what health providers call “health talk.” It addresses most issues confronted by new mothers ranging from care of newborn babies, coping with body changes, sex, family planning or child-spacing as some prefer and so much more! While teaching, questions are asked, reprimands made where necessary (like a woman who asked if it was safe for her husband to also suck her breasts for breast milk), and jokes shared.
Interestingly many waiting mothers (women yet to conceive) also attend to tap into the faith or blessings of the new mothers. Others, who attend are marketers of disinfectants like Dettol and diaper like Pampers, which graciously give trial samples to the women; a gesture many of them look forward to. Then comes in the marketers of girdle (to make the tummy flatter), clothes, soaps, jewellery and creams. Simply put, it is a gathering of all sorts!
Not forgetting staff of the National Population Commission, NPC, who attend to ensure the new-borns are duly registered to enhance proper planning and allocation of resources.