The decline in child immunization in Kabalore district is worrying health officials. Records at the Kabarole district health department, shows that child immunization coverage declined from 75% in 2013 to 45% in 2014.
The decline is being blamed on the poor attitude of parents towards immunization, low funding of immunization activities and the long distance immunization to centers. David Musinguzi, the in-charge of Bukuku health centre IV says that, only a few mothers bring their babies for the routine immunization.
Records at the health centre show that only 40 children were immunized last year. Musinguzi says since Bukuku health centre IV is the only health facility in the sub county, mothers require transport to access the facility, which many of them can’t afford.
According to Musinguzi, parents only take their children for immunization during national immunization days.
Deborah Asiimwe, a resident of Nyanduhi village in Bukuku sub county says that whenever she takes her children for immunization she spends 20,000 shillings for transport to and from the health centre.
Asiimwe, whose home is 10 kilometers away from the health facility, says that she is uncertain if her children will receive the final dose of diphtheria and tetanus.
At Busoro health centre III, Jennifer Businge, a nurse at the facility says that despite the presence of vaccines for measles, polio and other preventable diseases, parents don’t take their children for immunization.
Richard Obeti, Kabalore district health officer says the department is sensitizing the community about the benefits of immunization. He says the department lacks funds to take immunization programs closer to the people.
Obeti says in the next financial year, they plan to fund village health teams (VHTs) in order to strengthen immunization in the community. He also says that, some parents deliberately refuse to take their children for immunization, even when they are near health facilities.
Obeti says there are cults in the district that mislead parents not to immunize or treat their children when they are sick. He wants the district council to pass a bylaw which imposes penalties and fines on parents and guardians who fail to take their children for routine immunization.
According to estimates from World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF), Uganda’s national immunization coverage declined from 71 percent in 2010 to 55 percent in 2011 leading to the re-emergence of preventable diseases.
The 2012 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey estimates that some 48 percent of children under the age of five were un-immunized or under-immunized, meaning they start immunization but do not complete the schedule.