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Nilgun AydoganSenior Programme Manager, Programme Delivery, GAVI Alliance
I’ve just come back from a field visit to Sri Lanka, still recovering from a 25 year civil war.
Despite this and a tsunami in 2004, the tropical island has maintained its immunisation coverage at consistently close to 100%. (footnote ref: UNICEF/WHO country estimate for 2009 is 97%).
Sri Lanka’s government and 20 million population are extremely committed to immunisation. And, even without the stunning beaches and coconut tree, mountain scenery, it’s a pleasure to be assisting.
GAVI’s health system strengthening support (HSS) programme is helping rebuild clinics in the island’s north-east regions, where entire communities are returning to their villages since the war ended two years ago.
Not that the war dented Sri Lankan desire for immunisation.
Fleeing the fighting, Sri Lankans would leave their money and possessions but never their immunisation records. Even when crossing rivers and other barriers to run away, they wrapped their immunisation cards in plastic.
GAVI’s money is helping to train medical staff in a wide range of primary health care issues, as well as renovate the health centres.
There’s no shortage of commitment from the communities, where mountains of paperwork follow every child’s nutrition status, growth, as well as immunisation.
And in one village that I visited, a landlord had donated a room in a house for public health midwife so that so his community could have access to primary care.
Another village, the community built their own health center so that government can staff the clinic for MCH services.
With an average annual income per person of more than US$ 1,500, Sri Lanka will soon graduate from GAVI support, wealthy enough to be needing no more GAVI support.
One day, we can hope, the civil war will be a distant memory. Immunisation, I’m sure, will be present for many years to come!
This blog post is also featured on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website.
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© Gavi 2014
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