19th April 2012, Port au Prince – The Red Cross is launching a countrywide public awareness campaign today to encourage mothers to get their children vaccinated, as the country makes a bid to become officially certified as polio free – the last country in the Western Hemisphere to achieve this recognition.
The awareness campaign is in support of the upcoming vaccination programme, led by the Haitian Ministry of Health and other partners including WHO/PAHO and UNICEF, which will provide vaccines for all Haitian children, up to the age of 10, against measles and rubella in addition to polio in order to keep them healthy. Vitamin A and albendazole (a de-worming medicine) will also be offered as will vaccines to combat tetanus. The American Red Cross is also supporting the programme by providing $2 million to the United Nations Foundation.
The nationwide vaccination programme is due to start 21 April which marks the beginning of World Immunisation Week.
“Information is everything” said John Fleming, Health Coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Haiti.
“It is critical that all Haitian mothers and caregivers, no matter where they live, understand the importance of the vaccination programme and the incredible opportunity it offers. We assist by explaining the benefits of having your child vaccinated, how it will happen and help to dispel any myths” he continued.
Thousands of Red Cross volunteers are going door to door and tent to tent countrywide. Sound trucks are driving through communities to play recorded information messages and loud speakers have been provided to camp committees. In addition the Red Cross is utilising new technologies to help reach a mass audience and are sending millions of SMS, running shows on the Red Cross weekly radio programme (Radio Croix Rouge Haitienne) and using twitter to alert the population. Promotional material including tens of thousands of leaflets and posters have also been sent to Haitian Red Cross branches throughout the country for volunteers to distribute.
Geurline Jean, 27, lives in Mais Gate 12 camp in Port au Prince with her two children aged 3 and 7 and plans to have her children vaccinated later this week.
“I found out about the vaccinations this morning from the Red Cross. I had heard rumours in the street that vaccines aren’t safe, but I spoke to the Red Cross and now I feel better about it. Now I know it is safe” she said.
“It’s important for me to get my children vaccinated” she continued.
A recent Red Cross evaluation found that communities particularly valued receiving health information as they often feel they do not have access to sufficient information through the existing media. 74 per cent of those interviewed reported receiving information from the Red Cross. Of these, 96 per cent said the information was useful, 83 per cent reported taking action based on it and 73 per cent shared the information with somebody else.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 mil¬lion people each year through its 186 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
For more information, or to set up interviews, please contact:
Becky Webb, communications coordinator, Haiti, IFRC
Mobile : +509 349 19813 E-mail : email@example.com