Need for Childhood Immunization Coverage in Slums: Volunteering Opportunity

More than 2 million out of 7 million children fail to be fully vaccinated by their first birthday in Pakistan. Immunization reduces the risk of life-threatening illness and eradicates, eliminates and diminishes the mortality of children under two years of age by providing 10 antigens for VPDs (vaccine-preventable disease). Pakistan has taken impressive steps to improve vaccine access in recent years, taking the bar from a mere 54% to 65% (according to the Pakistan Demographic Health Survey 2017/18). Mushrooming growth of slums in big cities all over Pakistan is emerging challenge and a threat. These settlements are not recognized by public authorities as an integral part of the city (according to UN Habitat), these slums have grown significantly over the past few years. Undocumented births leave a huge gap in immunization coverage. Communities living in slums are more vulnerable to infectious diseases as they live in extremely unhygienic surroundings, they have very poor housing structures, no access to large and well-equipped hospitals, out-of-school children and proper drainage system. With an international spotlight and pressure on polio, early childhood vaccination for other diseases (nine preventable diseases vaccination) such as pneumonia, Hepatitis B and Meningitis has taken a back seat, leaving children vulnerable to serious health issues. According to the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (Gavi) Pakistan is the largest recipient of Gavi funding but the coverage of immunization is very low due to undocumented communities in slum, absence of enough vaccination centers and lady health workers. Volunteers can play a vital role in obtaining the detailed facts about the communities specially children to create a profile that would not only help the government to learn about the barriers in routine immunization but also improving the ability to design a plan for other development interventions such as water, sanitation, education and low-cost, durable housing.
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