By Zaddock Okeno, National Coordinator for the Health NGOs Network (HENNET), and Jack Ndegwa, Vaccine Advocacy Officer for the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO)
THIS IS THE SECOND BLOG IN OUR WORLD IMMUNIZATION WEEK SERIES, WHICH WILL HIGHLIGHT AN IMMUNIZATION ADVOCACY GOAL EACH DAY.
TODAY'S BLOG FOCUSES ON IMMUNIZATION ADVOCACY GOAL #2: TO PROMOTE TRUE COUNTRY OWNERSHIP AND GLOBAL VACCINE ACTION PLAN IMPLEMENTATION
As Kenya adjusts to a post-election environment under a new constitution, there is much optimism and opportunity to ensure we don’t lose momentum in our efforts to give every Kenyan child a shot at life.
This World Immunization Week provides us the opportunity to continue this momentum as the Kenyan government has joined with health and immunization stakeholders nationally and globally to commemorate the week.
Marking World Immunization Week at the country level is crucial to increasing awareness and generating demand for immunization services from the communities with which we, as networks of health civil society organizations, work.
To further our call to increase demand for vaccines, our organizations Kenya AIDs NGOs consortium (KANCO) and Health NGOs Network (HENNET), have engaged with the Kenyan media to mark this important week.
While Kenya has seen an increase in basic immunization coverage to about 83%, this is not good enough as 17% of infants and children are not immunized or fully immunized – these children are often in the poorest and most vulnerable areas.
As such, national World Immunization Week activities were conducted in a slum area called Mukuru Kwa Njenga, a decision prompted by the need to reach unreached children and further promote equity.
Immunization is largely regarded as a highly equitable health intervention, and Kenya’s immunization program is no exception. However, since independence in Kenya, the arid, semi-arid and pastoralists’ areas have lagged behind in all health indicators, with immunization being no exception. In the majority of these areas, immunization service delivery is done by civil society, particularly faith-based organizations who are crucial to reaching these hard-to-reach and mobile populations.
At a time when the country is devolving government services, including health, the role of county governments in delivering immunizations cannot be emphasized enough. Equity in the current county set up, especially in poor performing counties, should be a focus of national and immunization partners. Increased emphasis on equity issues will need attention now from county and national health actors.
We must strengthen the capacity of CSOs to advocate for leadership at the county levels to prioritize adequate delivery and access to immunization services through expanded political will and dedicated resources.
Due to our support for immunizations at the national level, KANCO and HENNET received award certificates from the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, which provides motivation for working to strengthen CSO networks on immunization, and amplify voices of reforms to cultivate political good will and effective implementation of existing immunization policies at all levels.
In commemorating World Immunization Week 2013, we are reminded of the need to embrace the opportunities presented by devolution to reaching the unreached, which should be the emphasis of the Ministry of Health, Finance, and county governments.