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Serving remote communities: Outreach vaccination programs

 

Lotabong lives in a village on the outskirts of Kapoeta North in Southern Sudan. Two of her eight children died from measles and another child died from diarrhea. At the time they caught measles, Lotabong didn’t know there were vaccinations to prevent this illness. Now she tells other mothers with small children to go and have their children vaccinated so they don’t experience the same pain that she and her children have suffered.

Lotabong’s story


“I gave birth to eight children. Out of eight children, five remain. The disease [measles] attacked my children when I was in Nairus. I got the message that my children were sick. Then the children started dying. My co-wife’s children died too. It killed two of her children, one died in the morning and the other in the evening.

"I knew it was measles because of the symptoms. It started on the child’s face and then I could see sores around the mouth. They had a rash and a fever. It was disturbing the children a lot, but there was no medicine the children could take. I tried using local medicine but it failed. It failed. I rubbed goat dung on the child, but that didn’t work. The disease got worse. I collected ash from the fire and rubbed it on the child’s arm. Then I laid the child on the floor and rubbed the ash on the body. Then I tried herbs (bark from the tree) that I mixed with water and got the child to drink. After that, people told me I must boil stones in water and give the child the water to drink. All of this for nothing. We tried what we could, but nothing worked. The disease killed the children.

“The children died day by day. Each day a different child got sick. One child would get sick and then passed away and then another would get sick. Maybe he got sick from using the same cup as his brother. Or maybe because they spent time close together, he caught it from him that way. When one died the next one would get sick, then the next one. They all died like that. Now I realize that measles can spread from one child to another. Measles killed those children, mine and my co-wife’s children.

“I try to forget them because I believe it is God who took them, but then I see the ones who are living. I pray to God that my five remaining children survive.

“There are many diseases attacking children – pneumonia, which captures the chest of the child. The big people can resist, but for a child, in one or two days, they can pass away. Then there’s a fever – local people don’t know its name. The traditional healers say it is nyekog, but I don’t think they’re right. Jaundice is also common here. Last year we were fighting against it – small children and older men and women. If someone gets sick with jaundice, their eyes turn the colour of grass. If they eat meat they’ll die immediately. [There is a widely held belief that if you’ve got jaundice you shouldn’t eat meat, salt or oil.]

“Now I hear that vaccinations have come here to Kapoeta North for children. I can see that not so many children are getting measles. When I see mothers taking their children for vaccinations, I know their children are protected. If a woman has a new baby she’ll take it to the clinic to be vaccinated and then the following month she’ll return to get another. The measles drug has come. The children will be okay. It’ll stop killing children like it did in the past. We didn’t know then we had to take our children for vaccinations. Now vaccines are available, there’s no delay and no one will die.

“What I want to ask is now you have learned that measles is a threat in this community, you must go and buy enough vaccines for measles and give them to all mothers so that their children won’t get sick. We need measles to leave this place. Tell the [world] leaders to bring the vaccines to us here in Southern Sudan to give our people life without diseases – diseases like measles, pneumonia and jaundice. If you have vaccines for pneumonia please bring them here. We need the drugs here.

“There are already a lot of children who have died in this village, but it’s not just here, all villages in this area. Most women have lost children, not just one but two. Many women have lost their children to measles.”

In Kapoeta North, Save the Children runs an outreach vaccination program – taking vaccines daily to the hardest-to-reach communities who wouldn’t otherwise have access to immunizations. The vaccinations given are DPT3 for diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus; polio; measles; and BCG for tuberculosis. We have a team of 12 people: two of them remain in the clinic to provide vaccinations to mothers and children who come to the clinic and the other ten travel out on a daily basis to remote villages. We also run six health clinics and are in the process of renovating two others. Each facility serves approximately 10,000 people.

 
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