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COVID-19: Only 9% rural dwellers receive vaccine in Enugu -UNICEF, NOA

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) have expressed dismay that only nine percent of rural dwellers in Enugu State have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

They stated this during the 2022 August Women meeting held in some rural areas of the state to sensitise women on the need to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

The programme which is wholly supported and funded by UNICEF, also, partnered Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA), Enugu State, Enugu State Ministries of Health and Information and other implementing partners in the campaign.

Some of the communities they visited include St. Mark Catholic Church, Mgbowo in Awgu Local Government Area, St. Timothy Catholic Church, Obeagu Ozalla in Nkanu West council.

Other places visited are St. Luke Anglican Church Ihe Achi in Oji River LGA, St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral, Udi L.G.A and other LGAs in the state.

The programme began in August 11 with the theme “Teaching Women on the Importance of taking COVID-19 Vaccine, personal hygiene, antenatal care, immunisation and breastfeeding of their babies”.

UNICEF desk officer, Enugu, Ethel Okoro, expressed dissatisfaction with the poor response to the vaccine by rural dwellers.

According to her, the data we got from the Enugu State PHCDA showed that only nine percent of the residents especially in the rural areas had been vaccinated so far.

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“It is a poor record and we want to leverage on women gathering like this to teach them that the vaccine is safe, the importance of taking it and warn them against unhygienic practices.

“We want to use the platform to build their confidence which will enable them key into taking the jab,” she said.

Okoro urged rural women to take the COVID-19 vaccine and shun misconceptions about the vaccine. She said the idea of visiting women during their August meetings was to educate them on the need to accept the COVID-19 vaccine and be vaccinated.

According to her, August Meeting being a platform that brings South-East women together, we decided to use it as a veritable platform to disseminate information that will better the lives of women and their children towards healthy living.

“They are many, so when we teach them, they can take the message to others in their various communities and homes; they can as well put it in their agenda and practice it,” she said.

The desk officer, who is also a staff member of NOA, however, expressed satisfaction with the large number of women vaccinated compared to 2021 when they first campaigned for the vaccine.

She said, “When we talked to them about the vaccine last time we came here, they rejected it due to rumours surrounding it, we are happy that some of them are now discussing it in their meetings”.

Okoro said that the sensitisation would go on across the 17 council areas of the state through their chief orientation mobilisation officers (COMOs) and health educators who would cover 20 communities each across the 17 L.G.As.

She advised residents in the state to visit any health centre in the state to be vaccinated, stressing that the number of people who had taken it, was enough evidence to convince them.

Explaining further on the COVID-19 vaccine, the public health expert, Chikezie Obasi told the women that the vaccine was not different from the ones they give to their children that made them healthy.

Obasi, a medical doctor at the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (ESUTH), Parklane, urged them to embrace the vaccine and disregard all the conspiracy theories against it.

Speaking on personal hygiene, Jacinta Nsude, an official of PHCDA, Enugu, said that most diseases were contracted through an unhygienic lifestyle and a dirty environment.

According to her, there is a need for women and other Nigerians to engage in the habit of continuous personal hygiene to prevent them from contaminating diseases.

“This is the era of diseases, therefore, always wash your hands after using toilets, use mosquito nets to avoid mosquito bites and avoid open defecation.

“To remain safe and improve your health, you need to abide by these rules, and risk of contracting COVID-19 will also be reduced,” Nsude advised.

Josephine Onyanta, president of the August Meeting, who spoke on behalf of women at St. Mark Parish Mgbowo, thanked UNICEF and NOA for coming to educate them. She said that the women had already started discussing the COVID-19 vaccine on their agenda.

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