UNICEF launches massive immunization campaign in Haiti
Guy Hubbard, UNICEF
|UNICEF correspondent Guy Hubbard reports on the campaign from Haiti.|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (February 3, 2010) — Magalie grimaces as the needle pierces her skin, and her four-year-old son screams as it pierces his. Despite the pain, this needle has the potential to save both of their lives—and right now, their lives are precarious.
Magalie and her family live in a makeshift camp here in the Haitian capital. Along with hundreds of thousands of others, they're being vaccinated against measles, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough in a massive immunization campaign launched this week.
"I want them to survive"
Two of Magalie's children died in the January 12 earthquake. She and her two surviving children were buried in the ruins of their home for 10 hours.
"I was cooking on the roof when the earthquake happened," Magalie recalls. "I covered my two smallest children with my body, but my other two children were in the house and I couldn't save them. I was only dug out of the rubble at three a.m.
"I came here to vaccinate my last two children," she explains, "because I don't want them to be sick. I want them to survive."
Risk of disease in camps
UNICEF, the Haitian Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and other partners have organized the immunization drive to reach those, like Magalie and her children, who survived the quake but are now living in cramped, makeshift camps.
Conditions in the camps are rife for the spread of disease. And while the campaign is mainly focused on protecting the health of young children, a number of vaccines are also available for older children and adults.
Patrick Dely, a Haitian medical student who has been studying in Cuba, returned to Haiti with a team of Cuban doctors to assist in the campaign "These vaccinations are important," he says, "because after a disaster like this one in Haiti, the population is exposed to the risk of disease."
Fight for survival
The first phase of the immunization campaign kicked off at Sylvio Cator Stadium in downtown Port-au-Prince.
"A lot of people from displaced areas are coming into the football stadium, and it's getting extremely congested," notes UNICEF Senior Emergency Health Advisor Dr. Robin Nandy. "It's also right in the middle of town, so there are displaced people all around it."
Nandy says displaced families from the camps surrounding the stadium are being encouraged to bring in their children for vaccination. "Of course, we target the settlements, but we are not going to refuse vaccination to anybody who comes to the vaccination post," he adds.
After its initial stage, the campaign will move on to other camps; then, it will be extended to other quake-affected areas of the country.
For Magalie and her children, and the many families like theirs who have lost everything, the fight for survival is not yet over. But with the continuing commitment and dedication of the international community—including UNICEF and its partners—their chances of making it through the emergency and rebuilding their lives are looking up.