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Dr. Amani Abdelmoniem MustafaManager, Expanded Programme on Immunisation, Sudan
This is a guest blog by Dr. Amani Abdelmoniem Mustafa, Manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation for Sudan. In August, she wrote about the launch of the rotavirus vaccine in Sudan in the blog: We started! The first child in Sudan to receive a rotavirus vaccine. Here she updates readers about the country’s progress.
KHARTOUM, Sudan — Two months ago, a 42-day-old infant named Jasir Tarig was vaccinated against rotavirus at a ceremony here in Khartoum. He was the very first child in Sudan to be vaccinated against a disease that kills more than a quarter million African children each year. Almost every child in Sudan suffers terribly from diarrhea, especially during the first year of their life, and rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea. So it was very exciting to watch as Jasir—and hundreds of other infants—were finally given a chance at a future free from the misery of this disease and its possible death sentence.
My immunization team was determined that the vaccine would reach infants not only in the cities, but throughout the country. We can now say we achieved this goal, but it wasn’t easy. Sudan is an immense country with geographical
challenges, isolated villages without health facilities, and security issues. If there was flooding, we used boats or rafts. If roads were blocked, we used tractors. Sometimes vaccines were transported on camels. Sudan has waited so
long for this vaccine that we will not let these challenges get in our way. We will not miss any child.
We also worked hard to get the word out to communities that
the new vaccine would help prevent severe diarrhea and save children’s lives.
We shared the message in schools, and students then shared it with their
mothers who shared it with their neighbors. We placed announcements and
information in newspapers and SMS, on radio and TV, at health centers and on
road signs. If you were walking down the road, you got the message. If you
watched TV, you got the message.
Because the rotavirus vaccine is new to us we’ve monitored
the introduction of the vaccine closely. Recently I returned to the health
clinic where Jasir received his vaccine. I had been especially touched by Jasir
and his mother, who had waited ten years for a child. When I learned that
he—and all the other children vaccinated that day—had come in for their second doses
on schedule and were well, I felt I could finally relax.
Sudan is the first country in Africa to introduce the
rotavirus vaccine with the support of the GAVI Alliance. We hope our experience
will encourage other African countries to apply for support from GAVI, so our
continent no longer carries the staggering burden of a quarter million deaths
due to rotavirus.
All children deserve to be vaccinated and live healthy lives.
Vaccination is a human right. The rotavirus vaccine must reach every child by
any means, irrespective of their situation. We should all work to make this a
Today, GAVI announced that rotavirus vaccines will soon be rolled out in other African countries. Watch a short film in which immunization experts, health workers, and mothers from Sudan
and Tanzania talk about the need for the vaccines and their hope for the future.
© Gavi 2014
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