Vaccines are one of the most effective health interventions ever developed. Immunization prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths every year.
At the Gates Foundation, we want to name and celebrate the unsung heroes who work tirelessly to ensure that children receive the vaccines they need. We launched this series to spotlight our partners on the front line and share their stories. We hope you will join us by sharing your own story, or the stories of the heroes you find.
The story below was submitted by Dr Assegid Kebede, courtesy of the World Health Organization, Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office.
Against all odds...
For more than 20 years, war-torn Mogadishu has been occupied by many warlords, fundamental religious leaders, and a number of foreign fighters. The city has known about three successive governments. Lately, the country faced one of the worst famines in years. Mogadishu is a town where bravery is put to its utmost test!
Mr Mohamed Abdullahi, the immunization focal person for Central Somalia wakes up every morning to the sounds of explosions and gun fires.
Organizing a function in Mogadishu, such as the Vaccination Week, is a risky business. The late Minister of Health, was killed during the graduation ceremony of the a medical school graduation ceremony. Bombs exploded in football fields, and more lately during a ceremony at the national theater. “Everybody is afraid of coming together in a group, yet we come together,” says Mohamed.
“Back in 2010, we were afraid of coming together; however we held our meetings and launched the first Vaccination Week in Somalia. We had the same feeling of fear in 2011, but again we made it. We will also make it this time,” says Mohamed, committed to make Vaccination Week 2012 a reality, in war-torn Mogadishu.
“We understand the risks, but we also believe that we need to deliver immunization services to save the lives of our children,” says bravely Mohamed. He recently moved back to his house in Hodan district in Mogadishu, after having been displaced for more than two years.
Moving from one place to another in Mogadishu is difficult and dangerous. Yet, as preparation for the Vaccination Week 2012, Mohamed moves around to the different offices of health partners, organizes meetings and communicates with them, all in an effort to make Vaccination Week 2012 a success story in Mogadishu.
We all know that vaccines work to save and improve lives. Thankfully, vaccinators work even harder. If you know a hero who has worked to improve vaccine coverage, we invite you to nominate them for the Gates Vaccine Innovation Award. The award seeks to celebrate and spur transformative ideas for achieving impact through immunization.The foundation will recognize the winning innovation with a US $250,000 prize.