Number 54 • January 2015

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India to roll out vaccine against Rubella

In a long-awaited development, India’s Prime Minister has announced that a vaccine against rubella has been added to India’s Universal Immunisation Programme.

As readers of DbI Review will not need to be reminded, if a pregnant woman catches rubella then the effects can be devastating. A child born with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS)1 may have hearing and vision impairments, heart problems, learning disabilities and other health problems.

To prevent women who are pregnant from catching rubella from someone else the rubella virus needs to be eradicated from the population as a whole – and the only way to do this is by vaccination. It is estimated that nearly 2,000 babies are born with congenital defects each year in India. Therefore this announcement of an immunisation campaign is a huge boost in the battle to eradicate rubella.

The numbers of young women in India who are susceptible to rubella infection and of children born with congenital rubella are hard to evaluate. However Indian medical experts have stated in the British Medical Journal2 that ‘Rubella is endemic in India’.

The rubella vaccine is one of four new vaccines to be added to India’s immunisation programme3 – the others being Japanese Encephalitis, rotavirus, and polio (injectable). With these new vaccines, India’s UniversaI Immunization Program4 will now provide free vaccines against 13 life threatening diseases, to 27 million children annually.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “India is committed to tackling child mortality and providing health for all. Strengthening routine immunisation is an essential investment in India’s children and will ensure a healthy future of the country.

“Many of these vaccines are already available through private practitioners to those who can afford them. The government will now ensure that the benefits of vaccination reach all sections of the society, regardless of social and economic status.”

Akhil Paul, Director of Sense International India5, said: “We are delighted that the Indian Government taken this step. Rubella can be a devastating condition and we hope that, like in many other parts of the world, the threat of rubella will recede once the immunisation programme is fully established.”

The World Health Organisation estimates that there are more than 100,000 children born with birth defects as a result of CRS every year in developing countries.

Prepared by: Colin Anderson, Publishing Manager, Sense (

For more information, contact James Thornberry, Sense International (

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5 l Sense International India is a small corporate member of DbI.
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Rubella vaccination spreads

There has been encouraging progress in the introduction of the rubella vaccine – with important initiatives in Tanzania and India this autumn.

The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 100,000 children are born in developing countries each year with birth defects as a result of Congenital Rubella Syndrome. Currently just over 130 countries out of 193 deliver the rubella vaccine.

Mass vaccination in Tanzania

In October, 21 million children were vaccinated against rubella and measles in Tanzania. The campaign was one of the largest public health campaigns ever delivered in Tanzania and East Africa. Tanzania has a population of 45 million and is the sixth most populated country in Africa.

The campaign targeted all children aged between 9 months and 15 years old. More than 12,000 schools and 6,600 health facilities were involved in just over a one-week period, making it a huge logistical challenge. Thousands of health care professionals, volunteers and NGOs were involved in helping to spread the word and getting the vaccine out. Reaching rural communities and ensuring that parents understand the dangers of rubella is key to uptake.

For the parents of children like Chausika, this is welcome news. Chausika is one of seven children and was born with congenital rubella syndrome. She has no sight or hearing and needs round the clock care from her mother. As a result, her mother is no longer able to work and this has affected the family’s income and plunged them in to poverty.

The vaccine is being delivered as part of the WHO’s implementation of the Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan 2012 – 20201.

Prepared by: Colin Anderson, Publishing Manager,
Sense (
For more information, contact James Thornberry, Sense International (
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Educating deafblind children within their communities in East Africa

Stevie Kent, Senior Programmes Manager at Sense International

For the first time ever, deafblind children in East Africa are accessing education from their local mainstream school. This is no small milestone given that until now governments and teachers alike insisted that children with complex disabilities like deafblindness cannot be educated through the mainstream system.

A few lucky children were enrolled in special schools but the vast majority simply missed out on an education. To solve this problem Sense International (East Africa)1 had to think outside of generally accepted practices and engage parents, teachers, and government officials to innovate together – and find a solution to put an end to the right to an education for deafblind children being systematically violated.

The result of this combined effort was the development of Community Based Education (CBE) for deafblind children, with a pilot programme now being implemented in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – funded by the Big Lottery Foundation in the UK2.

Existing special schools have been transformed into resource centres with multi-disciplinary teams of educational and health professionals assessing deafblind children and, with the input of parents, developing Individual Education Plans for each child.

Additional special needs teachers have been posted to each resource centre in order to go out into communities and train local mainstream teachers and parents how to provide holistic education and therapy for deafblind children at home. A home-based curriculum has been specially developed in each country, paving the way for similar approaches for other excluded groups of children.

What is so unique about this approach is that unlike most Community Based Rehabilitation approaches, where NGOs are used to deliver home services, this approach utilises existing state infrastructure and human resources to provide non-formal education but following a standardised curriculum and set of quality standards. No longer will home-based services have to come to an end when project funding runs out.

This pilot programme will reach 900 deafblind children and their families (5,400 people), and is building the capacity of nine resource centres, 99 special needs teachers and 900 mainstream teachers to deliver CBE. The mainstream teachers’ role is key as they support parents by helping them to make lessons for the children out of everyday activities, based on the curriculum and Individual Education Plans.

The results of this pilot programme are impressive but Home Based Education is only the first stage. Once the deafblind child has developed sufficient communication skills, the mainstream teacher will gradually start to include them in school activities and lessons.

We are working with governments to provide classroom teaching assistants to facilitate this next stage in the process. Ultimately our aim is for every deafblind child in all regions of East Africa to access an appropriate and quality education from within their own communities – so that children no longer miss out on the education and therapy they need to achieve their full potential in life.

For more information about Sense International, contact Sense International at

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