13 June 2012

Uganda: Child Health Starts With Parents


A month ago, reading through a booklet, I came across a quote which intrigued me. It said, "Take care of your body and health, it is the only place you have to live".

Reflecting on this, it struck me how much progress we could make if we recognised the importance of a healthy body and how the minutest things we ignore can make a difference to our lives.

A case in point is last month's three-day measles and polio immunization campaign. The immunisation, which also sought to protect the children from related diseases, came at the helm of the nation grappling with an outbreak of measles in 46 districts.

The campaign received a turn-up of over 90% in most districts. This could have been a result of the mass mobilisation. This was a big step in the fight against infant mortality, where many children die due to preventable causes.

The fight and protection against child diseases starts with the parents and should not be relegated to the Government alone. The Government has provided the necessary protection against most of the preventable diseases.

Last year, Uganda became one of the first African countries to contain measles, after failing to record a single death in over two years. Uganda was also among the first African countries to be declared polio free in 2006.

This all vindicates the Government efforts of routine immunisation. If we continue responding to the Government calls for routine immunisation, some of these diseases would be history. It is, however, disappointing to hear that only 51% of Uganda's pregnant women get immunised against tetanus. This sets a bad precedent because mothers should take the lead as they prepare to bring a new life.

Vaccination drugs are free in all public health facilities and subsided at private health facilities. There should be no excuse of children dying of preventable diseases. There is also now vigilant active surveillance system for early detection, investigation and timely response to any diseases outbreak.

The recently introduced cold chain infrastructure ensures that every sub-county has a vaccine store. This has facilitated the availability of vaccines at all times in all health facilities.

The Government recognises that a healthy population is an input and a consequence of economic and social development.

Uganda has made steady progress in improving the health of her people as evidenced by increased life expectancy and improved infant, child and maternal mortality. Polio and guinea worm have been eradicated while measles and leprosy have attained elimination status.

Writer is attached to the Ministry of Health

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