Training for Extended Program of Immunization

By Sister Joan Melinn Sister Joan Melinn at Well Baby Clinic

Before we went to Fuka we had to do a health survey of the area. Over a two-year period there had been thirty-two births. Over the same period there were thirty-four deaths because of measles. The people said, "Our children are disappearing."

We've just finished a survey of the same area and found there has not been one death in the past two years and every single child has been covered by the Extended Programme of Immunization (EPI).

Today, from our health centre in Fuka, we visit fifteen villages once a month as part of UNICEF's EPI. The usual vaccine routine covers six major diseases - TB, whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, measles and polio. Only three people can go in the cabin of our vehicle. The furthest village is about an hour and a half away. There could be small rivers to cross in the rainy season, but that's not a big problem here. Most of the time it is hot and dry. When we get there, the clinic is held under the trees if it is too hot to be indoors. The people produce tables, benches, water, maybe some soap - but we carry our own just in case.

We already have trained health workers living in some of the villages. We invite them to come in to the health centre in Fuka for a month's course, during which they cover the basics. These include prevention of malaria and tetanus and treatment of diarrhoea and vomiting - in fact anything that happens in the village on which they can have some influence. That includes ensuring a clean water supply and not growing things too near the houses. Water stays in leaves and mosquitoes breed in the stagnant water.

Sister Felicitas is called to check a new-born infant in the village
Sister Felicitas is called to check a new-born infant in the village
 Sister Felicitas Egeolu visits a village

When Sister Felicitas goes to the village
to check on a newborn infant, she is
asked to look at a couple of sick children.

Domestic and farm accidents are another area we cover in the basic course. It is common to have injuries because a hoe came down on a toe or leg. Sometimes a hatchet used to cut wood went through a person's hand. Ideally, we would like to think the people have been educated to prevent this type of accident. Just in case, the health workers get training in how to stop the bleeding and clean the wound, to keep the person alive and to get any emergency transported to us. That could mean strapping a patient onto the back of a push bike or a motor bike. Occasionally a car is available.

Sometimes we are called out to a village. If we go, we'll find the problem is everybody's concern. Everybody has to find out what we are doing. It is not just curiosity; there is also an interest in the person who has the problem. There is a natural suspicion about bringing strangers in.

Children have no inhibitions at all. We teach a lot by letting children be there and watch what we are doing to a little sister or brother, telling them what they can do themselves. Children learn very easily that way.