The Directorate General of Health Services, the authorised body for conducting the national immunisation campaigns, itself believes that the absence of such immunisation campaigns is the primary reason behind the recent deaths of nine children at Tripura Para in Chittagong’s Sitakunda upazila.
Health experts have opined that the children died of measles, as the area in question was not included in the campaigns.
The latest immunisation campaign in the region was held in 2014.
Director General of the Health Services Prof Abul Kalam Azad said the immunisation campaign was conducted across the country through a union wise micro-plan.
“But it is a matter of grave concern that Tripura Para was not enlisted as a ward of Sitakunda’s Sonaichhari union in the micro-plan.”
“As such, there was neither an immunisation camp nor any other campaign in the area, which caused the deaths of the nine children,” Prof Azad added.
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Asked whether the Health Services Directorate had admitted responsibility for not conducting immunisation campaigns in an area inside the country, the director general said: “We expressed grief over the incident.”
“The ethnic people of this area don’t usually get along with anyone outside of their community and they lead their life according to the directions and suggestions of their own leaders.”
“They are not even willing to receive modern medical treatment, and that is the reason the 388 people of 85 houses living in the community never came under any national immunisation campaign.”
In a reply to a question on why these people were not brought under any immunisation programmes, the DG said: “We have formed a probe committee regarding the matter. The committee has already submitted a report but I am yet to go through it.”
“The report will be revealed through mass media within seven days,” he added.
Prof Azad further said that, according to statistics from 2015, 82.5% of children in the country were brought under immunisation campaigns, with 17.5% of children remaining.
“The existing union wise micro-plan for immunisation campaigns will be reviewed,” said the Professor.
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A nurse is seen giving treatment to a child affected by measles at Chittagong Medical College Hospital Rabin Chowdhury/Dhaka Tribune
Meanwhile, six field-level heath workers were transferred for their negligence Tuesday, confirmed Chittagong’s Civil Surgeon Dr Md Azizur Rahman Siddique.
Prof Mozaharul Islam, former consultant for the World Health Organisation’s Southeast Asia region, said there is no reason any region of a country should remain outside of national immunisation campaigns, even if it is situated in a coastal area or over a hill tract.
“There should be mapping to set the coverage of a national immunisation programme, and when you have mapped the process you can easily find the person responsible for executing the campaigns accordingly.”
“The civil surgeons of every district were supposed to monitor the campaigns according to the mapping, and no area should have been left out.”
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“It is indeed a failure of the government,” the former WHO official added.
Project Director of Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health at the Health Services Directorate Dr Md Jahangir Alam Sarker said a total of 11 vaccines are given to the children across the country for 10 diseases.
“Deaths of children after having such a comprehensive programme is very sad.”
“We have thoroughly analysed the issue and sent corresponding letters to the civil surgeons of every district, asking them for new micro-plans so that not a single child stays out of the national immunisation campaign,” said Dr Jahangir.
This story was originally published on Bangla Tribune