Social Mobilisation in Eastern Freetown
Despite notable gains in the fight against maternal and infant mortality, a recent UN report has ranked Sierra Leone as having the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. The ranking comes at a time when the country is coming to terms with a deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak that has further severely disrupted the basic healthcare service delivery system in the country. The government, NGOs and other development partners have come up with innovative strategies to improve health care in this country and one such strategy is the national immunization campaign. With support from health sector development partners, the Ministry of Health (MoH) introduced the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) week (Mami en Pikin Welbodi Week) in 2013 as a national campaign that is undertaken twice a year with the aim of improving the health status of women and children in Sierra Leone. With the emergence of the EVD outbreak in 2014, this nationwide event, like many other health care services, was hugely disrupted and thousands of under-five children failed to receive lifesaving vaccines in a nation where the under five mortality is 217/1000 live births.
During a health partners’ coordination meeting attended by Welbodi staff, the MoH requested all health partners to support them in making sure that it achieves its target of reaching 90% of under-five children and pregnant women in the national vaccination exercise. Among the key areas the ministry requested support in were social mobilisation, logistical support and training of vaccinators.
Thanks to funds from GlobalGiving, Welbodi Partnership responded to the request of the Health Ministry by supporting Tok fo Pikin Welbodi (Speak for Children’s Health) to conduct a three-day social mobilisation exercise which included house to house visits and radio panel discussion all within communities in the east of Freetown. The aim of the exercise was to reach a minimum of 10,000 homes with messages related to the vaccination campaign and also promote other positive health seeking behaviours that can contribute to improving the lives of women and children. The team also dispelled myths and misconceptions that the exercise was a mass EVD vaccination campaign. An estimated 20,000 families were directly reached in the three-day exercise and throughout the project period. It was observed, among other things, that most of the communities had received no prior information about the vaccination exercise and many others thought it was a massive EVD vaccination drive. The two-day radio panel discussion attracted a number of calls from listeners and the panellists were able to appropriately respond to relevant questions related to the exercise. Among the key services provided during the November 2015 MCH week were:
- Administration of Oral Polio vaccine
- Vitamin A supplementation
- Albendazole administration - deworming
- Defaulter tracing for immunization (targeting children less than one year and referred to health facilities)
- Identification of malnourished children using the Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) system
- Antenatal care (ANC) for pregnant women
Following the completion of the nation-wide vaccination exercise, the president in his speech to parliament cited that “over 1,475,000 children 0-59 months were vaccinated against Polio which represented 98.8% coverage and over 206, 000 women of child bearing age have received at least two doses of tetanus toxoid vaccine”. As a key partner in Sierra Leone’s healthcare service delivery, we are proud to play a part in this success.