Saturday, 26 March 2016

It took the death of one child to immunize the next

Junaedah, Kosir and Baby Mohammad Faqih: “My baby is now ready-to-go-to war against diseases.”

Junaedah’s only daughter, Soliha, would have been 5 years old now had she lived. But like too many children in Indonesia, little Soliha died at just 3 months old, from a disease she could have easily been protected from.

Her death has not been for nothing, though. The little girl’s passing helped spur Junaedah, also known as Juju, and her husband Kosir, to immunize the youngest of their six children, Mohammad Faqih.

Juju says she has already seen the difference between Mohammad Faqih and his older brothers who weren’t immunized.

“My other children were small and skinny, different from this little boy who is chubby and healthy: immune and rarely sick,” says Juju, who hails from Kluwut village in the District of Brebes, Central Java, Indonesia.

Juju actually immunized her first child, but when he received the polio vaccine shot, he began to cry and developed a fever. Juju’s mother then forbid her daughter to immunize any future grandchildren. But what Juju and her mother didn’t realize was that developing a fever after receiving the polio immunization, which is one of five basic vaccines to protect a baby against potential diseases, is actually very normal.

Last year alone, approximately 75 children in Brebes died from various preventable illnesses, including diarrhoea and infection. In fact, the likelihood a child will experience diarrhoea is highest among those children who have not received immunizations. The importance of five basic immunizations is often ignored when people like Juju and her mother are not given enough information about the immunization process. The consequences are vast: Not only does a lack of immunization affect a child’s protection against disease, it can also create a danger to other children.

Ibu Junaedah sells homemade food ranging Rp 1000,- Rp 2000,-

UNICEF, along with the Ministry of Health and other local regional bodies and NGOs, is working to create awareness about the importance of immunizing children and educating parents about what to expect during the immunization process.

Since 2011, UNICEF has participated in several efforts to empower communities to improve the health situation in Brebes. The efforts include communication training for midwives and volunteers in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, as well as training and support for others connected to the process. For example, UNICEF provides materials at the Family Hope Programme (PKH-Program Keluarga Harapan), which provides conditional cash transfers to designated low-socioeconomic households. Participants must meet certain requirements to improve the quality of resources, namely education and basic health for pregnant women and pre-school children.

One PKH facilitator trained by UNICEF is Agus Tresnawati, also known as Nana. Nana oversees more than 300 households, which includes more than 220 children and babies under age 5. Nana previously opened her own small language centre in Jakarta after studying Arabic, but returned to Brebes upon her mother’s request. She says she enjoys her new job and feels fulfilled knowing she is contributing to society.

During her rounds, she sometimes brings her own child as an example of how healthy and smart a child can grow through proper breastfeeding, good nutrition and immunizations.

“Who else can help my society if I don’t start with myself?” she says.

And no one but Juju understands how true that is.

“Sometimes I still wish my daughter had been properly immunized,” she says while holding her chubby youngest son. “I can’t turn back time but I learned my lesson.”

Educating through example. Showing off her healthy, smart baby inspires other mothers.