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Imo community where immunization is “death sentence”

By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri

It has been uncovered that in some communities in Imo State, villagers see immunization vaccines as a killer substance.

*From right: Mr Anthony Uzor, Malachy Uchegbu and Loretta Ahuokpeme, during a meeting in Owerri, on the challenges facing immunization exercise in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State.
Photo by Chinonso Alozie, Owerri

Stakeholders from four communities in Imo State have lamented  what they call the propaganda against immunization of children in Agbaja, Dioka Nzerem, as well as Umunze I and II in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of the state.

The executive coordinator of Better Community Life Initiative, BENCOLIN, Mr. Malachy Uchegbu, and his counterpart at Our Lady of Perpetual Initiative, Loretta Ahuokpeme, who spoke on the occasion, said that there were false campaigns in the affected communities that immunization vaccines were killer drugs aimed at reducing the population of the people.

According to Uchegbu, “We have observed in some communities in the state, especially in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area, that there is poor immunization coverage. We went there to sensitise the people on the importance of immunization in child development. This is because a child has to be healthy.

“It has been discovered that some villagers in some communities in Imo State, tagged immunization vaccines as a killer substances…

The communities identified included Agbaja, Dioka Nzerem, Umueze 1 and 2 in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of the state.

“Part of the findings in these communities are that over 70 per cent of the rural dwellers defecate in the bush and this could always lead to a possible outbreak of epidemics.

“It is on record that the same Ehime Mbano has had poor record in terms of environmental sanitation, which is threatening the health of the inhabitants of these areas.

“Also, it was observed that there were health centers in the communities, but that the health officers are engaged in the selling of the immunization vaccines.

“This challenge has also largely discouraged parents from going for immunization as they cannot afford the money to pay for their children to be immunized, hence immunization has become a programme for the rich alone.

“The challenge did not stop at that, the villagers see the immunization exercise as a plan to kill their children. This belief is said to have lived with the people for years.”

“It became tough to change this thinking with the wide spread rumour of soldiers under Operation Python Dance tried to use force to inject school children during school hours in Igbo land.

“The belief of the people on the vaccines killing their children, was taken as a serious issue and they saw it inevitable to do away with such an impression.”

Also,  Loretta Ahuokpeme of Our Lady of Perpetual Initiative, spoke in the same vein saying that “Child development transcends education as it is about wellbeing. Now we say that if a child is not totally immunized or protected no matter the sicknesses and diseases that child may not grow up to be a productive citizen.

“That is why we went there to actually make sure that children, mothers, men – all perceived immunization as a human right of the child and as a community resource.

“To archive this in these communities we went into in-depth behavioural change advocacy. We succeeded in bringing out the people to be more positive both towards us and towards immunization.

“If you go to the communities, they now have a national anthem to encourage people in immunization. This is to reintegrate the people into a new culture of accepting immunization. The activities is now more positive.

“One of the goals of advocacy is sustainability. If nothing is sustained, nothing is done. In the communities, we now have immunization agents, immunization ambassadors, we left a legacy of structures, to sustain this programme…

“They now have register to capture data on the child and mother. Every three months we go back to find out how much they are utilizing our education and how much they are succeeding because the idea is that yearly we shall bring them together for seminars and workshops. We also worked closely with our state immunization officer, who is Onyewuchi, he joined us in the advocacy.

“The immunization coverage there was low. It is not as if the vaccines were not there but the people were not accessing these vaccines.

“We also tried to speak with the health officers, they were like that it is an internal thing which they use to do their own local administration in the health centers.

“So from what we actually understood from them it is self-sustaining. Primary health care centers are self-sustaining. They felt they should be collecting something.”

Mrs. Eboh Mary Uloaku, told the South East Voice that: “When they came for the immunization sensitization, we refused them to talk to us because we felt they were not coming for our own good but by the time we finished interaction they explained to us the need to protect the life of our children and sustained their wellbeing and we accepted it.

“We the women are now doing exactly what they taught us and we are teaching others women so that all of us can benefit.”

 


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