The Communication Network (COMNet) in Quetta [Balochistan, Pakistan] has found a unique way to immunize missed children amongst mobile and migrant population - on the fourth day of 3 Days National Immunization drive COMNet looks for missed children in a innovative way. COMNet team hired a "Jhoola", a manually operated swing for the children. The idea was to engage the community in identification of missed children by gathering the children around the Jhoola - where missed children could be identified and vaccinated.
Quetta hosts a large mobile population from within the province, neighboring Sindh and across the borders from Afghanistan, The population ranges from nomads, to seasonal migrant, Internally Displaced Population and Afghan refugee settlement areas. During summers the target population of the districts is increase by 10,000 - 15,000 children due to the population movement.
The Jhoolas were placed at 3 different settlement areas including settlements of seasonal migrants from Sindh and Afghanistan and Internally Displaced camps of the Marri tribe. The population here were mainly Baloch, Sindhi seasonal migrant and Afghan nomadic tribes - the Baloch and Sindhi tribes belonged to Naseerabad and Jaccoabad, where as Afghan populations were moving from southern Afghanistan to Sindh. The community elders said they will be staying longer due to the floods in those areas.
During the activity, the parents were briefed on importance of vaccination and hygiene. Female social mobilizers went tent-to-tent to inform families about vaccination and bring out children for immunization. A large number of children gathered around the swing; parents brought their children enthusiastically to play and receive polio drops.
"This is the first time my children are sitting in a swing that too for free," a mother told me. Parents said that they brought their children outside the tents and from streets because they hardly get any opportunities such as this to make their children happy.
300 Children were identified and vaccinated by the COMNet social mobilizers. The area had been missed by the polio vaccinators as these populations are usually on move. The children were immunized in a vehicle parked neared the activity area to protect vaccine from sun and immunize children in an organized way. When children were immunized and documented by one Social Mobilizers team, they were given a free ride by the second Social Mobilizer team.
Sixty Social Mobilizers and ten Union Council Communication Officers are currently working in District Quetta with UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund]-supported Communication Network. They cover 100% of the high risk areas. Quetta had 15 confirmed cases of polio in 2011 and 4 cases in 2012.
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