26 April, 2012 will mark a milestone for Ghana. On that day, during World Immunisation Week, the West African nation will make an unprecedented step towards saving the lives of its children from two of the biggest child killers in the country, through the simultaneous introduction of two new vaccines.
Globally, pneumococcal disease is responsible for approximately half a million deaths among children under five every year. As well as being the leading cause of pneumonia, it also causes meningitis, which leaves many of the children it does not kill with permanent disabilities, including mental retardation and seizures. Pneumococcal disease can also lead to blood poisoning, as well as middle ear infections, which can cause permanent deafness.
By Jenny Da Rin, Assistant Director General, Education and Health, AusAID
On a recent trip to Bangladesh I had the opportunity to visit a health clinic to see how the health of women, children and babies in a poor village was improving with Australian aid. The clinic we visited is in a village in Sreepur, a hot, bumpy and frankly scary two-hour drive out of Dhaka.
Young mothers in Sreepur learn what vaccinations their babies need, when and why vaccination is important. Photo: Jenny Da Rin / AusAID
The clinic in Sreepur is a really good example of how a poor community in a developing country benefits from our help. The clinic provides a range of services to several villages that include health checks and information on issues like nutrition, hygiene, family planning and vaccinations. A doctor from the nearest hospital visits regularly to check on pregnant women and assists in delivering babies. The doctor can deal with more serious medical conditions or can refer cases to hospital when necessary. It’s a routine we are familiar with and expect in Australia, but in a country where the health system hasn’t always worked and where maternal and child deaths have been very high, this clinic is a remarkable achievement.