UNICEF with funds from GAVI, this week handed 293 motorbikes worth more than $ 600,000 to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation for outreach activities on vaccination programmes. The motorbikes will be dispatched to nationwide.
Vaccination staff in community health facilities will use the motorbikes to reach more children with life-saving vaccines in especially hard-to-reach areas and also to support the maintenance of the cold chain equipment.
Child Mortality rates in Sierra Leone are high at 94 per 1,000 live births, according to the 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey. Over 90 per cent of under-five children were vaccinated against childhood diseases particularly polio in 2018.
“Difficult terrains and sometimes, unavailability of transportation facilities, are inhibiting the adequate and timely provisions of desperately needed life-saving vaccines to under-five children living in remote and hard-to-reach communities,” said Dr. Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone. “These motorbikes will no doubt, contribute to the fight against these high rates of child mortality in the country.”
The handover of the motorbikes is timely as there have been recent outbreaks of measles in Kambia and Pujehun districts with not less than 24 laboratory confirmed cases out of the 66 suspected cases reported as at early January 2019. Teams of vaccinators are going around several communities this week vaccinating children between 6months and 14 years against measles, which contributes to high under 5 mortalities.
Last year, GAVI, through UNICEF, funded the procurement and distribution of 220 new solar refrigerators for vaccine storage under the Cold Chain Equipment Optimization Platforms. The equipment stores vaccines in good condition, thereby preserving their potency and increasing the chances of them being effectively administered to save children’s lives.