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Health team dares extreme difficult terrain to vaccinate kids for Measles-Rubella in Alirajpur of MP

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Special Correspondent

ALIRAJPUR: When the journey starts in a four wheeler on a bumpy road, it is difficult to imagine what lays ahead for the Alirajpur district immunization team intent on vaccinating the children of Bhitada-based Narmada Jeevanshala with the Measles-Rubella vaccine under the five-week campaign of MP state health department.

The journey begins from Community Health Centre in Bodgaon, an interior village in Sondhwa block of Alirajpur district. The bumpy road continues for about 25km when the team lands on the banks of river Hathini and takes a sharp uneven slope, all loaded with vaccine carriers and other paraphernalia, to board a boat Janani Express (health department ambulance facility, basically for childbirth cases).

Soon the motorboat ambulance slowly meanders into the backwaters of Sardar Sarovar dam on River Narmada and the beautiful sight and the cool wind takes mind off the difficult task that actually lies ahead. It is only after almost one hour long motorboat journey that the team lands on a more uneven banks of the river overset by a series of hillocks and it becomes clear that the team has to trek the highly dangerous, uneven, rubble-filled hilly terrain for almost 3km to reach the residential schooling facility in the almost inaccessible Bhitada village.

Despite winter, the high sun brings loads of sweat to the team members, but they seem unfazed as they finally reach the cool interiors of the mud-tile thatched Jeevanshala and immediately start setting up the immunization facility.

The team includes veteran ANM (auxiliary nurse midwife) Priskala Parmar, Jyoti Sastya, other field health staff led by block medical officer Dr KS Jamra and district immunization officer Dr Narendra Bahedia himself. The Measles-Rubella campaign is supported by UNICEF, WHO and UNDP.

The children, all looking forward to something special, are lined up in separate room and let into the temporary immunization room one by one – to get the injections of Measles Rubella vaccine. The reactions are different from the children in age group of seven to 15 years – some wince slightly, some smile, some just refuse to look at their right upper arm and so on.

DIO Dr Bahedia holds the fort with kids, keeping them engaged with their school slogans, the Measles-Rubella campaign slogans and asking them to read the awareness material as they are put under mandatory observation of half hour post –vaccination.

“There was nothing to fear, we have been getting vaccinations here properly,” Arvind Avasya, 12, a student of class 5 declares. Mila Avasya, one of the few girl students at the facility keeps on smiling as she is vaccinated and later says she knows it is to save them from diseases.

Michael Juma, Chief, UNICEF, Madhya Pradesh puts across the point very clearly. “Vaccination is a right of each and every child. And Measles Rubella Vaccination enviably boosts the immunity of children and this campaign will contribute to eliminate transmission of Measles and Rubella from India by 2020. UNICEF together with other partners  are supporting efforts of the Madhya Pradesh Department of health and family welfare which is leading measles rubella vaccination campaigns in MP,” the chief says.

Meanwhile, the kids, about 40 of them, later hum songs for the team and happily wave their immunization certificates, indicating that they were now safe from Measles and Rubella infections. “We are trying to complete our immunization targets with full sincerity, irrespective of the challenges – including inaccessible terrain, which is common in Alirajpur district,” DIO Dr Bahedia said.

The dedication is clear as the team starts is tough return journey two hours later, to land on the banks of Hathini River again after a return trek and boat ride. Despite the obvious physical strain, they look happy and content, having completed one of tough tasks successfully and happily.

Sravani Sarkar

Sravani Sarkar has been a journalist for three decades. In the past, she has worked with Lokmat Times, Indian Express, Hindustan Times & The Week