Over 200 children at the Myaing Gyi Ngu internally displaced persons camp have received their first ever inoculations this week, amid a joint vaccination drive by the Karen Department of Health and Welfare and the state health department.
Between July 4-6 children under five were given a slew of vaccines protecting against tuberculosis, tetanus, chickenpox, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease, measles and polio.
“The children here [at the Myaing Gyi Ngu IDP shelter] are from areas where we couldn’t previously administer vaccines so they have never seen vaccines before,” said Dr Naing Naing Tun, deputy director of Kayin State’s Expanded Program on Immunization. “Some of them ran away as they were afraid. They don’t understand the value of vaccines.”
She added that the Kayin (Karen) State health department is newly collaborating with the KDHW and other organizations to expand vaccine drives to children throughout the state.
The state’s health department and the KDHW began working together on the immunization project in 2016. Children under the age of five from 93 villages in Hpa-an, Hlaingbwe and Kya-in Seikkyi townships have so far been immunized, according to officials from the health department.
The KDHW, which is under the authority of the Karen National Union (KNU), has also carried out immunization programs in some KNU-controlled areas.
“We have taken responsibility to provide immunization in areas that cannot be covered by the government. We have come here [to Myaing Gyi Ngu] to carry out the immunization program with the government’s health department since [the residents] of Mae Tha Wor villages have been living here since fighting broke out [last year],” said Dr Htet Ko Ko Linn, health coordinator of the KDHW.
He added that the KDHW will cooperate with respective health departments to extend the immunization program to KNU-controlled areas in Mon State and Bago and Tanintharyi regions next year.
More than 7,000 people living between Myaing Gyi Ngu and Mae Tha Wor fled during a flare up in fighting last year. Around 5,000 people continue to live in the Myaing Gyi Ngu temporary shelter after their houses were burned down, and their villages were littered with landmines.