Jean Louis Esanzo, is the Superintendent Nurse at the Konongo Health Center, in the Mankanza health district of Equateur province, DRC. Konongo Health Center supplies vaccines and essential medicines for many surrounding villages. However, the only way to get vaccines to Konongo from the provincial warehouse is by boat on the Congo River. This means long journeys and high transportation costs the health center could not afford, which led to frequent vaccine stock outs in the past.
Strengthening the health system
In response to this challenge, VillageReach worked with the Ministry of Health on the Next-Generation Immunization Supply Chain (NexGen iSC) program, to strengthen the health system and get health products delivered directly to health centers like Konongo. Now Jean Louis has the time and confidence to visit and monitor all the vaccination sites in surrounding villages to ensure that every child has access to quality vaccines. He is a champion for the NexGen iSC program and is known among nurses as a leader, motivator, mentor and coach.
“Vaccination is guided by international and national standards related to vaccine management, storage, transportation and use. My role during the site visit is to check, remind and ensure that those standards are strictly followed by the healthcare workers to guarantee that children are receiving quality vaccines that can protect them against vaccine preventable diseases,” says Jean Louis.
Engaging the community to ensure every child receives vaccines
While the national standard recommends that vaccination should be done whenever a child is available, some nurses struggle to comply effectively with this standard. When only a few children attend a vaccination session the nurses are reluctant to open a vial in order to avoid vaccine stock outs. Jean Louis believes, “Immunization is everyone’s business in the community, not of the nurse or the clinic alone.
I recommend the nurses work with the community leaders and structures to identify children wherever they are and agree with parents on the best time of the day and best days of the week to immunize their children, whether at home, at the clinic, at the community market or places of worship.” Parents and community leaders are key immunization stakeholders and should be involved every step of the way. Thanks to vaccine heroes like Jean Louis Esanzo, Konongo health center now has one of the lowest rates of vaccine wastage in Equateur province – and more children are receiving life-saving vaccines.