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2.1m children to be vaccinated during anti-measles campaign.

With 2.1 million children to vaccinate, we are faced with the challenge of not only immunizing children in hard to reach areas but reaching every child in the Quetta block as well, Dr.

Ishaque Panezai, Deputy Programme Manager Expanded Programme on Immunization, Balochistan was sharing his concerns with representatives of Civil Society Organizations at the Provincial Expanded Programme on Immunization in Quetta. The National Measles Campaign will start from 15th October throughout the country to give supplementary immunization to children against Measles.

The 12 day campaign in the province will cover an estimated 2.1 million children between the ages of 9 months to 5 years of age.

A detailed presentation briefed the CSOs on the number of target children, age group, duration and magnitude of the campaign. It was decided that the Immunization Programme will identify locations of underserved areas that could be a district or a union council and demarcate the location on the map where CSOs support could contribute tangibly for the success of the measles campaign.

Balochistan with an area of 347,190 sq-km is the largest province of Pakistan. The population density is low due to mountainous terrain thus leading to serious geographical barriers to service delivery.

The province has one of the lowest development index and highest maternal mortality ration of live births compared to national figure. The obstacles facing Balochistan include programmatic and governance challenges ,urban rural disparity in service provision, critical non health issues related to lack of coverage, access and equity, non-availability of adequate human resources, population growth, lack of accountability for poor performance and political interferences.

Immunization coverage in Balochistan has been low. The Government of Balochistan has set ambitious targets for improving immunization coverage and has released significant resources over the last year to reach these goals.

In the last couple of years, EPI Balochistan has made significant investments in strengthening the Routine Immunization (RI) service delivery including improving the cold chain system across the province, providing motorbikes to enable vaccinators reaching every community and launching android based mobile monitoring system for tracking vaccinator's performance. Although according to the latest Pakistan DHS 2017-2018, immunization coverage in Balochistan has increased (from 16 percent in 2012/2013) to 29 percentfully immunized children Balochistanstill holds the lowest position amongst the provinces of Pakistan.

Major reasons behind the alarming situation stand an inadequate allocation of financial and human resources to the EPI program, management of the program at the provincial and district level, non-availability of data regarding the population figures, vaccine availability, storage/handling and above all awareness and willingness of the masses to get their children vaccinated. According to Dr Syed Saqlain Ahmed Gilani, National Programme Manager, Expanded Programme on Immunization, equitable coverage of immunization in Pakistan remains a key priority for reducing child mortality and is the target of a wide range of interventions and funding support from various partners.

"The goal is to achieve above 95 percent coverage and reach every child to make the campaign successfull. The campaign will be an opportunity to reach all un-immunized children, while strengthening the system and institutionalizing approaches for hard-to-reach communities for a sustained increase in coverage.

" adds DrGilani. The challenges the province, with a population of nearly 9.

1 million, faces are very different from any other. It has a scattered population and a difficult terrain with many areas security compromised, so we cannot have a one-size-fits-all strategy for it.

The districts of Qila Abdullah, Qila Sifullah, Dukhi, Pishin, Sibi have shown persistently low coverage. CSOs will be supporting Balochistan EPI, especially for social mobilization and demand promotion activities during the upcoming Measles SIA in hard to reach areas and urban slums where government facilities and reach in minimal.

According to Hameedullah Kakar, the Chairperson of Balochistan Executive Body, local Civil Society Organizations and Community Based Organizations and members of the CSOs network, Pakistan CSO Coalition for Health and Immunization (PCCHI) will also be engaged in the advocacy and social mobilization in hard to reach areas and urban slums where government reach is difficult or minimal Coming back to the upcoming Measles campaign DrPanezai, parents needed to be motivated to bring their children to the fixed EPI sites during the 12 day campaign. "Because unlike the polio campaign, which is door to door, for measles parents need to bring their children to the center for vaccinations.

" he said.
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Publication:The Balochistan Express (Quetta, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Oct 9, 2018
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