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Immunisation drops as nurses’ strike puts more children at risk

The number of children without compulsory vaccination rose from 157,584 to 265,523 between January and July. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI
The number of children without compulsory vaccination rose from 157,584 to 265,523 between January and July. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI 

The national immunisation coverage has dropped from 85 to 68 per cent due to the ongoing nurses’ strike, data from the Ministry of Health shows.

The data also indicates that the number of children without compulsory vaccination of any sort rose from 157,584 to 265,523 between January and July, exposing Kenya to the risk of diseases such as polio, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

Nurses have been on strike for the last 137 days, which has paralysed health care services in public health facilities and contributed a great deal to the deterioration of the health, and even death, of children.

From the statistics, skilled care during pregnancy has declined by 44 per cent while deliveries in health facilities have reduced by 28,000 from 85,000 between January and July.

This means that new mothers have been unable to get services such as immunisation and regular checkups in public hospitals.

Last week, the government launched a campaign targeting 300,000 children below five years who might have missed out on six essential vaccines because of the nurses’ strike.

The drive targets polio, tetanus, measles, BCG, influenza and pneumonia. It will take place in 11 counties worst-hit by the strike.

They are Turkana, Lamu, Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Tana River, Samburu, West Pokot and Baringo. If the campaign proves successful, it will be rolled out in the rest of the counties.

More women, especially those from poor households, are delivering at home with some of them seeking emergency care late, resulting in the deaths of mothers and newborns.

Isiolo and Tana River are among the most affected counties with up to 80 per cent decline in institutional deliveries. Over 50 per cent of health facilities in arid and semi-arid counties are closed due to the nurses’ strike.

“The prevailing situation continues to pose substantial risks to the well-being of children. The continued accumulation of children who have not received any life-saving vaccines has created a great risk of an outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Unicef representative in Kenya Werner Schultink.

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