11-year-old Saleha Akhter becomes film narrator for a day to explain unprecedented vaccination rate

Dhaka, 18 November 2011 – Dhaka schoolgirl Saleha Akhter stole the limelight from her prime minister on Thursday, starring in a short information film which showcases Bangladesh’s immunisation success story.

As the film’s presenter, 11-year-old Saleha visits the processes and people that deliver vaccines to over 90 percent of her fellow Bangladeshi children, including Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina and Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Ruhal Haque.

The importance of being immunised

“I hope my film will make Bangladeshi children understand the importance of being immunised,” said Saleha, aged 11, who has grown-up healthy thanks to the life-saving  vaccines in Bangladesh’s national immunisation programme

“I was so afraid when she came into my office,” said Minister Haque, who joined Saleha to watch the film’s premiere at the GAVI Alliance Board meeting.

Giant freezers

The six minute film traces the delivery of life-saving vaccines to Bangladeshi’s remote rural villages -- from giant freezers at Dhaka airport used to store keep vaccines at the right temperature to immunisation sessions held amid waterways and rice paddies.

As a member of local civil society BRAC’s adolescent programme, Saleha encourages her fellow school children to not forget scheduled immunisation sessions. “I am enjoying a healthy life thanks to vaccines,” she adds.

Immunisation Day

Advocacy has played a key role in mobilising Bangladesh’s 160 million population to attend immunisation sessions.

Each year, Premier Sheikh Hasina makes a televised national address to urge Bangladeshi’s to attend ‘Immunisation Day’. The ministry sets up 20,000 mobile vaccination stations at bus and railway stations, in addition to 140,000 fixed immunisation clinics.

“Illiterate people have 74% vaccination. That is the success of Bangladesh,” says Minister Haque. “We have been able to convince these people to come to the vaccination stations. If we did not reach those people we would not be here. That is the success story.”

Helicopters and motorboats

To reach remoter communities isolated by Bangladesh’s extensive waterways, the government uses helicopters and motorboats.

In 2010, the United Nations recognized Bangladesh’s achievement in reaching Millennium Development Goal 4 – reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds.
One year earlier, at GAVI’s Partners Forum in Vietnam, the Alliance presented Bangladesh with an award for progress in immunisation.

Addressing the GAVI Board, Minister Haque highlighted Bangladesh’s vaccination targets over the next five years: measles, measles rubella, hepatitis B birth dose, pneumococcal and rotavirus.

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