NW Health Districts Develop Crisis Communication plan for Effective Immunization Program

The officer for Advocacy and partnership for the technical central group on the Expanded Program for Immunization, Mr TChetchia Albert has told District Medical officers from the Northwest region that, in order to realize a successful immunization campaign program, it is important to galvanize communication activities, suggest local strategies, use convinient communication platforms for different communities while considering local realities.

" If people are not aware of the risk, they will not change their behavior, there is need to work with the media and other partners, for a kind of community engagement in better communicating with the local population in these remote areas, to meet objectives for effective immunization.'

     This was discussed during a 3-day workshop in Bafoussam coordinated by Mr Gilbert, an advocate partner officer at the Ministry of Public Health, and Saho Raoul, focal point communication officer for the Northwest region who worked in collaboration with Dr. Cornelius Chebo, Coordinator of the Regional Technical Group EPI Northwest.

It was revealed that there exist over 19health districts in the Northwest region, with the 20th, newly created at Bamenda III subdivision. Saho Raoul presented data of each health district that improved on communication, in line with sensitization, mobilization and coverage on Immunization as compared to last year 2020.

He said there is still very low vaccination coverage recorded and which needs to be improved on, increasing outreach, taking the vaccination service to the people.

The Regional Delegate for Communication Northwest region was certain that he will use his expertise to ensure that Communication on immunization is given correctly given the context of the crisis.

"They need to give people the right information on the vaccines, the campaign for the immunization, whether positive or negative, talk on side effects, is important so that as the population is coming they are aware, they will see for themselves that positive effects outweigh negative effects and go for their vaccines." Regional Delegate for Communication, Northwest Region.

Recomending community radios, megaphones to be intergrated in communication policies or campaign, using native language to pass across specifics or basic information about the vaccines so that people can go in for their vaccines.

To him, using traditional rulers is another Chanel to convey the message, but how the people in that community respect the traditional ruler will also determine how the information will go through.

DMO's (District Medical officers) were adviced to work with their communication focal point persons and  web influencers who will report and circulate the info to other platforms, to make the immunization plan swift.

Participants raised challenges faced while carrying out Advocacy on the field and asked that something be done to remedy the situation.

"The effects of the crisis in our health district in Batibo have been very negative, our health facilities are closed, health personnel have left. We need to reestabilish ourselves and come back, which is the reason for the workshop on crisis communication plan."

" We need to talk to the appropriate quarters, to reignite our vaccination and other health related activities, because we have had challenges; no coaching, no light, no fridges; all of which has been looted. We have a lot of problems carrying vaccines from Bamenda to the vaccination points, some points which are over 95km from the district health services." DMO Batibo Health district.

Saho Raoul added that to strengthen the routine immunization plan it is important to also teach persons on what to do with with their social or digital space, in order to prevent another crisis which may only make communication difficult on immunization.

The question on how to report rumour or how to challenge it, came up and it was revealed that different groups of persons will be identified and included in the crisis communication plan. 

Persons like: religious persons, health personnel and other key actors, that will act as a positive pull factor in making the immunization plan a success. Dr Chebo Cornelius says Communication is key in the immunization program.

"Our coverages as far as the vaccination program is concerned have never been good. It's been falling. UNICEF and WHO have greatly supported us to ensure that they can support outreach activities and we have been organizing intermittent periodic intensification for organisation program".

"Communication still remains the back bone of the success of the program, reason why the central level decided to organize this workshop so that we could bring communicators to talk more freely and more detaily to see that the message goes through, for people to adhere more to the  vaccination program that is being devolved from Yaounde"

By Ndefru Melanie

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