By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye
When the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak was announced, 30-year-old Janet Kasibante, a mother of six was expecting.
However, the high transport fares induced by the virus lockdown could not stop her from seeking antenatal services, especially after she was told she was carrying twins.
“I wanted to know how my babies were doing. Were they growing well! The doctor had told me they were not in very good positions and this worried me,” she said.
It has been a month and a half now since the babies were delivered safely in a health facility. They are healthy and bubbly.
Ms Kasibante, the proud mother has the same enthusiasm and wants her twin babies free from vaccine-preventable childhood diseases, which in the worst cases can kill children.
Kasibante carries her twin babies – Trino Wasswa Kasibante and Trinidad Kato Kasibante – at the health centre.
She is one of the several mothers who turned up at Komamboga Health Centre III for immunization services when she heard about Integrated Child Health Days.
Her twins are due for some vaccines.
The Integrated Child Health Days are conducted by Ministry of Health every April and October, with support from UNICEF and other partners. The campaign strives to reach every child and woman with critical health care services like routine immunization catch-up vaccination, deworming, and vitamin A supplementation, in addition to family planning services and general health education.
Ms Kasibante is aware of the COVID-19 pandemic and the risks involved, but she says this doesn’t stop her from making sure that her babies are protected by life-saving vaccines provided at the health centre. Instead, she abides by COVID-19 prevention measures – she wears a mask, washes her hands with soap and water upon entry at the immunization shelter, and maintains physical distancing. UNICEF provided the vaccines, thanks to GAVI funding.
UNICEF has also provided handwashing facilities at the health centre. All mothers and caregivers who come for immunization and other health services must wash their hands with soap and clean water to prevent COVID-19, as well as to boost hygiene.
At the immunization clinic, Janet mentions that many mothers are missing out on their children’s vaccination appointments, blaming it on COVID-19. To them she says “Don’t use COVID as an excuse not to vaccinate your children. Immunization is good for our children’s health and guarantees them a healthy future.”
At one and a half months old, Janet’s babies are immunized against diarrhoea and polio, among others. The two diseases are dangerous to children under the age of 5 but can be prevented through immunization. Janet confirms that none of her children have missed or delayed getting their vaccines. When asked what the benefits of immunization are, she is quick to say, “It is important to immunize children to protect them from diseases that usually affect them while they are still young, especially before their bodies are strong enough to fight those diseases. To me, immunization boosts their immune system.”
Her hands are full. She must take her children for weighing in turns, one after the other. The same thing happens when it is their turn to get vaccinated. Growth monitoring of the babies is one of the services provided at the health facility. The twins are growing well, and she is still breastfeeding. At the nurse’s desk, Janet is encouraged to continue exclusively breastfeeding the baby boys until they are 6 months old. It is the best food for them to grow and thrive.
“I have seen children sick of measles, they suffer a lot and I hear many die,” Ms Kasibante said.
She urges mothers to immunize their children because if they don’t, they will regret it in the future when their children catch diseases like measles and diarrhoea, yet they had numerous opportunities like these to have them immunized.
How peaceful the babies are, as they take a nap in their mother’s hands. They have just been immunized a few minutes ago and are now protected from killer diseases. Janet too is happy because her babies are safe. She has received details of the next appointment. She will return without fail so that her babies are protected further through immunization and other essential health services.
This article was first published by Unicef