Popular Appeal In Sri Lanka
Popular Appeal In Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has one of the highest immunisation rates in South Asia because the people have welcomed and supported the government's vaccination programmes which Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has funded.
July 1, 2007
Photo Credit: M Weerakone/Gavi/2007 Families sit outside Pittakotte health clinic in Colombo District, waiting for their babies to be vaccinated. “Women receive a good education, so they know the value of healthy living and getting immunised,” says chief epidemiologist Nihal Abeysinghe, explaining why Sri Lanka has one of highest immunisation rates in the developing world.
Photo Credit: M Weerakone/Gavi/2007 “My son is getting DTP3 and Hepatitis B shots. We will make sure he gets all the vaccines. We want him to have a long life and achieve his goals – maybe become a doctor or a teacher,” says Nalini Geethika, as two-month-old Tarini Anupaja is weighed at the Pittakotte clinic. According to WHO, over 99 percent of Sri Lanka’s population is immunised against DTP3 and Hepatitis B, thanks in part to Gavi funding.
Photo Credit: M Weerakone/Gavi/2007 Tarini’s father Asela watches as his son is vaccinated. Unlike many other developing countries, it is common for Sri Lankan fathers to take an active interest in their children’s healthcare. “Fathers are very concerned about their children’s health,” says Chandrika Kumari Megahakotuwa, midwife at Pittakotte.
Photo Credit: M Weerakone/Gavi/2007 With almost two-thirds of births taking place in the State’s free hospitals and public health clinics, education in child health starts early in Sri Lanka. “After the delivery, I was given information on how to care for the baby, including vaccines,” says 27-year-old mother Chandi Swarnamalee, who also borrowed books from her local library.
Photo Credit: M Weerakone/Gavi/2007 When new mothers leave hospital, midwives like Saroji, in Matara District in the southwest, will make regular house visits. For the next five years, Saroji will follow mother and child’s progress, providing health education and ensuring they don't miss vaccinations. Thanks to a network of midwives that the family Health Bureau has established across Sri Lanka, few people live more than five kilometres from a health facility.
Photo Credit: M Weerakone/Gavi/2007 To get to know the 5,000-strong community around Hittatiya in which she works, Saroji rents local office space and visits her outpatients on a scooter donated by UNICEF. She carries scales, vaccines and notebooks and sets up ad hoc clinics. “I've even made a map, plotting landmarks like schools and temples and danger spots, such as pools of water where there might be malaria mosquitoes.”
Photo Credit: M Weerakone/Gavi/2007 When 30-year-old Arosha suffered her first bouts of morning sickness, her mother quickly informed Saroji. “The midwife came to visit and gave some reminders about regular checkups at the local clinic,” says Arosha.
Photo Credit: M Weerakone/Gavi/2007 Midwives play another vital role in ensuring health service meets Sri Lankans’ high expectations. They regularly record who has been vaccinated in their community – and, most important, who missed a shot. This allows the Family Health Bureau to track Sri Lanka’s astonishing progress in eradicating common disease and draw-up new immunisation programmes. “We hardly ever see tetanus, so the vaccines must be working,” observes Saroji.
Photo Credit: M Weerakone/Gavi/2007 When south-west Sri Lanka was devastated by the tsunami in December 2004, Hittatiya was one of 92 health facilities damaged. Normal vaccination service was resumed within three weeks – an indication of the strong infrastructure underlying the health service.
Photo Credit: M Weerakone/Gavi/2007 Gavi will provide funding to help Sri Lanka’s Family Health Bureau keep pace with the ever greater expectations of Sri Lankan parents. “Parents want the best for their children, so some are getting vaccines through the private sector, even if it’s expensive," says Doctor Nimalka Pannila Hetti, regional epidemiologist in Colombo.