By Anil Gulati
North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, 21st July 2009 – In a dimly lit room of a Panchayat (local government) building at North 24 Parganas, about 125 kilometers of Kolkata, twenty mothers with little ones cuddled in their lap, wait patiently for getting their babies immunized with measles vaccine and receiving Vitamin A supplementation. Forty others wait outside in the courtyard.
This was a special booth set up as part of special measles vaccination & Vitamin supplementation in the seven Aila affected blocks of South & North 24 Parganas for reaching out to children in the age group of 6 months -5 years.
Malti Sarkar, mother of 10 month old Ankita, was one of them. She and her family lost almost everything to Aila, and are now trying to rebuild their lives. But when being told of this vaccination drive by her health worker, she was there. "This was important; I wanted my child to be protected" shares Malti.
Even though it was drizzling on ‘day one’, it didnt deter parents like Malti and others to get their children to the centre. The booths for this drive have been set up at village level either at local club and panchayat buildings or at Anganwadi and health centres. The drive will continue for 7-14 days in each block depending on the number of children.
Health Workers are vaccinating children while village volunteers and workers of Women and Child Development Department are helping them to create awareness and providing support at the centre. Jayanti Sardar is ANM (health worker) in the area.
She is happy with the turnout on day one and adds "We had undertaken miking, conducted mothers meeting and went house to house before the rounds to create awareness on this drive which has helped." "In addition to vaccine, we have also kept in stock ORS, medicines like paracetamol in case a mother or child suffers from diarrhea or has fever,” she adds.
Lori Calvo, the State Representative of UNICEF was with them on the day this drive started, says "Measles has a potential for outbreaks, hence vaccination of children against the disease is a priority for populations following disaster and it is vital that we protect children from infectious diseases like measles, which is one of the biggest single killers among the vaccine-preventable diseases."
This special drive is being implemented by the district & block health personnel’s, frontline workers, and is being facilitated by UNICEF, in collaboration with Kolkata Medical College and WHO -Government of India's National Polio Surveillance Project.