Women Poultry Vaccinators in Bangladesh - Provision of regular and timely health services for poultry rearers
During field visits to the BRAC Area Office in the Kachua Upazila of Chandpur District, we met with an enthusiastic and highly motivated group of poultry vaccinators, many of whom had been working as vaccinators for over 12 years.
Each vaccinator covers three to five villages. Selection is based on criteria developed by BRAC which includes nominating women from amongst BRAC facilitated village organizations (VOs). The names of short listed candidates are discussed in VO meetings where a consensus is reached on the most suitable candidate. Preference is given to widows, destitute and married women with smaller family size. Candidates should be in the age group of 25-45 years and permanent residents of the village. Acceptability by the community and the ability to motivate are other criteria in the selection of poultry vaccinators. Knowledge of reading and writing are preferred attributes, but since the training largely comprises practical hands-on training, literacy is not a limiting factor in the selection process.
Following selection, each vaccinator undergoes a one week training programme, and is provided a vaccination kit comprising an ice-box and vaccination syringes. Subsequent replacement of syringes is the responsibility of the vaccinator. Refresher training is organized every month at the BRAC Training Centre in Kachua which also provides an opportunity to share experience and learning, and clarify any doubts that might emerge during their work.
“The high levels of mortality witnessed among village poultry was a major motivation to join the poultry vaccinator training programme. The training we underwent to qualify as poultry vaccinators not only equipped us with better knowledge and skills to manage our own poultry but has now emerged as an income generating activity”, mentioned one of the poultry vaccinators during the discussions. Depending upon their experience and outreach, poultry vaccinators are able to earn incomes ranging from Taka 700 to Taka 1300 per month.
Vaccinations are undertaken approximately four times each month, with vaccines procured from the Upazila Livestock Office or from the BRAC Training Centre. The focus is largely on vaccinating against the New-castle disease and fowl cholera, since these vaccines are available at the Upazila Livestock Office. On an average 250 birds are vaccinated each day by a poultry vaccinator. Information is provided in advance to the poultry rearers who are asked to bring their poultry flocks at a central place in the village to facilitate vaccination. Depending on the vaccinator’s ability to maintain the cold chain, vaccinations are procured either once a month or up to four to five times in a month. Those vaccinators who have access to a refrigerator prefer to procure the required vaccinations once every month based on the demand in their villages, whereas those who do not have access to a refrigerator procure the vaccines either on the day of vaccination or the evening before. The BRAC office provides ice, and the vaccinators procure the required number of vaccines and store these in the ice-boxes provided. In case vaccinators are unable to visit the Upazila to collect the vaccines, they request BRAC staff to deliver the required number of vaccines in their villages.
Vaccinators prefer vaccinating poultry either early in the morning or in the evening, when birds are calmer and more likely to be found in a single place. In addition to the cost of the vaccines, poultry vaccinators charge a fee which is currently Taka 2 per bird.
In addition to administering vaccines to village poultry flocks, vaccinators informed that they also share their knowledge on management practices in rearing poultry. For example information on the selection of fertile eggs for hatching on the basis of texture and hardness of the egg shell, regular cleaning of feeders, waterers and shed etc. is shared with poultry rearers. Some members of the group, particularly the more experienced, have also been trained on goat vaccination (primarily PPR1 and FMD2 ) and charge Taka 5 for vaccinating a goat. Some informed that they also assist BRAC veterinary staff in cattle vaccination programmes, and are confident of soon taking this up themselves. “Our families supported us through the training programmes and even now when we go out for vaccinating the village poultry birds. Villagers were initially reluctant and thought that their birds would die following the vaccination. However, seeing the reduced mortality, the community now demands regular vaccination. We receive calls from some of the villagers reminding us that vaccination of their flocks is due”, shared one of the poultry vaccinators.
The vaccinators informed that in case of any problems faced in the field, for example unidentifiable symptoms of diseases in birds, mortality despite regular vaccination etc, they immediately contact the Upazila livestock officer who visits the affected households. “We feel proud of being in this profession as we are referred to as doctors in the village. We are also respected by our families since we contribute to the family income. I make my own decisions regarding spending the money that I earn and feel proud when I can buy something for my husband from my own earnings”, mentioned one of the poultry vaccinators cheerfully.
1. PPR – Peste des petits ruminants
2. FMD – Foot and Mouth disease
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Contributed by - Coordination Team