Immunisation fears for settlements

National, Normal


THE increasing population in Port Moresby settlements is contributing to low early childhood immunisation coverage for mothers and babies at settlements in the National Capital District, a spokesman for the Health Department indicated.
National Coldchain and Logistics manager with the department, Anthony Mala, said there were no proper records of the number of mothers and children, two years old and below, as more people from other provinces were flocking into NCD and heading for the settlements.
As part of addressing the low immunisation coverage in the city, full-scale household surveys in settlements were necessary to determine some of the causes why mothers and babies did not receive full immunisation and other primary healthcare services.
Under an initiative, aimed at improving service delivery for immunisation, and spearheaded by the department in conjunction with World Health Organisation (WHO) PNG, National Capital District Commission, the NGOs and church partners, the first settlement survey was conducted last week. 
More than 300 houses in three Saraga settlements at Six-Mile undertook the survey.
This was followed by the three-day workshop at the Bomana Police College this week, attended by 21 clinic managers from various NCD clinics which were analysing the pilot data.
Planning mechanisms to address the problem are being put together during the workshop to find ways to ensure every infant and pregnant woman in NCD has access to regular immunisation sessions.
Participants yesterday expressed that the results from Six-Mile could be the same for all other settlements, which meant that not every child in NCD got all the vaccine doses he or she needed.
During the door-to-door survey last week, mothers with children under the age of two were asked to consult the “bebi buks” to see whether their child and their mothers received all the necessary vaccines.
“If they had not (received their vaccines), then they are asked what problems the mother had encountered.
“The results of the survey are already pointing to ways in which the service can be improved,” co- facilitator and WHO consultant Dr Julian Bilous said yesterday.
“While it was encouraging to find that 60% of the children surveyed in these highly mobile communities were already fully immunised, and only very few had received no vaccines, it still means that about 40% are ‘dropping-out’.
“That is, they do not complete all the series of doses,” Dr Bilous said.
Information from the first survey had mothers suggesting if children’s services could be brought closer to them in the form of “outreach” sessions in safe areas organised by the communities within their own settlements.
This could help take care of the common problem that the mothers face often as they are busy working to feed their families, causing them to miss appointments at the clinics.