Around the world, millions of children’s lives are put at risk every year because they lack access to life-saving vaccines. However, at the same time individual heroes the world over are changing the future of millions of other children by ensuring access to these critical vaccines. Recently, Nilgun Aydogon, a program officer with the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership focused on saving children’s lives by increasing access to immunization in poor countries, was able to witness firsthand the incredible impact of some of these vaccinator heroes. This is the second entry in our four part series following a vaccinator’s journey across Myanmar.
To avoid 40°C heat, we leave before sunrise for a mobile immunization clinic in Ali Boke, -- a chance to see if the measles campaign reaches remote villages.
Our 4x4 bumps along a dusty embankment, rice paddies extending to the horizon on one side, a canal flowing on the other. There is no sign life here has changed since the colonial canal was built.
Thatched bamboo huts rise on stilts from the flat greens and browns of the landscape, beyond the reach of monsoon floods and lethal cobras. Oxen plough fields and farmers, bamboo hats protecting them from the sun, break their backs to earn a pittance.
Families register for their jabs. Someone dances for the children; it feels like a festival.
At Ali Boke, there is no running water or household electricity. Generator powered loudspeakers blare the theme tune for the national measles campaign. Beneath banners waving in the warm wind, families register for their jabs. Someone dances for the children; it feels like a festival.
I am impressed with the turnout. By mid-morning, 200 children of the targeted 300 have received injections, but many families have not brought immunization cards, so nurses can’t check if children are missing other vaccines. There’s also nowhere for nurses to dispose of the used syringes and other waste.
Next week, starting Tuesday, May 29, we'll publish the last two installments of our vaccinator's journey across Myanmar.