“It is no longer news that vaccination is the surest and safest way to prevent and fight many diseases and help families save income
Paradoxically, the poorest people here in the Far North remain the most unimmunised or under immunised” It was with these words that Haman Bouba, Chief of Brigade at the regional delegation of public health representing the Delegate, welcomed the Zero Dose Immunisation Program (ZIP) implemented by the RAISE for Sahel (R4S) team into his region. This was during the kick-off meeting, which took place on the 11th of April, 2023, at Hotel de Sahel, Maroua.
The event brought together stakeholders from the regional delegation of public health, District Medical Officers, Chief of Centers, Religious leaders, immunisation partners like WHO, PROVARESSC, and other civil society organisations and media organs. This kick-off meeting aimed at informing these stakeholders about the R4S Project, its implementation, and where and how it will be implemented.
In his presentation, the R4S Program manager –Dr Foyeth Eugene, explained that the implementation sites were not randomly selected but through careful analyses, which exposed the fragility of some communities and health districts. Their high numbers of zero-dose children, the fragility of the communities and the fact that it had remained out of government reach for a while qualified the districts for this selection. Hence, he explained that of the 32 health districts in the Far North Region, the five most vulnerable health districts were selected to pilot the immunisation of the missing children. He further explained that this project is coming to reinforce government efforts and complement what other partners are already doing. He used the opportunity to introduce his Team, who would monitor activities on the ground to enhance the project’s success.
In alignment, the EPI coordinator for the Far North Region, Dr Yaya Adam complimented the R4S project manager for accurately identifying the problem. “If their diagnoses were wrong, I would be wondering about the project’s relevance, but they have touched the roots of our problems.” Using data, Dr Yaya further explained the gravity of the problem by highlighting the low immunisation uptake in the districts mentioned by the R4S Manager. “Everywhere is read, our measles coverage is less than 20 percent, we have had three polio cases in a short while, we are on the red alert for something to be done, and we are grateful that ZIP is bringing this help the region needs desperately.” Dr Yaya used the opportunity to call on the steadfast support of all the DMOs and CoCs to strengthen the R4S Team to turn the tide and immunise the last child at the last mile.
The role of the religious leaders was also highlighted during the meeting. The Lamidos complained that they are generally contacted only during campaigns but pledged to bring all hands on deck to transform behaviours and immunise every child. “It is our job to ensure our subjects are healthy, and when we are informed on time, we will inform them and follow up to ensure they do what is right. Their well-being should be our priority.” The representative of the Lamido in Maroua reassured the stakeholders present.
The meeting ended with the R4S Manager explaining their next steps, which included visiting Maga, Guere and Yagua Health Districts to plan for the commencement of work to ensure immunisation is adequate before the rains in July.