Jewish NGO helps Uganda with Polio vaccinations

Jewish Heart for Africa’s solar-powered refrigerators have helped vaccinate more than 65,000 kids.

January 21, 2011 00:11
2 minute read.
Jewish NGO helps Uganda with Polio vaccinations

vaccination 224.88. (photo credit: AP)


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More than 65,000 kids have received vaccinations over the past three months thanks to Jewish Heart for Africa’s solar-powered refrigerators, Rachel Ishofsky, JHA’s associate executive director, told The Jerusalem Post by phone from Uganda Wednesday night.

In August 2009, Uganda was declared Polio-free, but in September 2010, the World Health Organization confirmed two new cases. As a result, the Ugandan government decided to vaccinate 2 million children under the age of five.

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However, the Ugandan Health Ministry needed a way to refrigerate the vaccines somewhere along the way between the capital and the door-to-door vaccination route in some of the rural areas, Ishofsky said. Aware of JHA’s success in providing solar-powered refrigerators to rural health clinics not far from the two cases, district health offices reached out to local JHA staffer Dr. Samson Wamani.

JHA uses Israeli solar technologies in rural medical facilities to provide light for nighttime medical care, and to power 50- 75-liter solar-powered refrigerators.

Health workers would come get the vaccines being stored in the refrigerators and then go out on bikes door to door to inoculate the children.

Uganda even brought Wamani in to the organizing committee of the emergency campaign. The campaign consisted of three days of vaccinations each month from November to January. The last set of booster shots was completed this week, Ishofsky told the Post.

“Not only did the doctors go from hut to hut, they went into playgrounds and communal bathrooms to make sure they had found every kid,” said Ishofsky, who is in Uganda.

During an after-action assessment on Monday, “they discovered that they had vaccinated 104% of their target population – meaning they had found even more kids than were registered with them,” she said.

JHA provides solar technology for lighting, refrigeration and water pumps in schools and medical clinics in Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Without a water pump, village women have to spend hours a day hauling unclean water. The nonprofit New York-based organization has powered 12 medical clinics so far. From Uganda, Ishofsky is traveling to Tanzania to check up on the group’s projects there. Later this month, JHA is launching operations in Malawi as well, she said.

JHA is also looking to tackle another major health issue – the use of kerosene for lighting in houses. “Burning kerosene causes lung diseases in children, and there have been stories about houses burning down. Moreover, I was told by locals here that kerosene costs $1 per liter, and they use 1 to 2 liters per week. Most people earn less than a dollar a day,” Ishofsky said.

JHA is looking into bringing solar-powered lanterns as an alternative to kerosene.

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