“It’s so strange to us that vaccinations can be controversial in the US,” the doctor said to us, shaking his head ever so slightly. And when I looked around at the clinic on the outskirts of a dusty, dirt road town many bumpy miles from downtown Addis Ababa in October, seeing what he saw every day, I understood completely.
We saw benches lined with patients waiting for this test or that treatment, taking days off from working the fields that they could hardly afford.
We saw the bare, calloused feet of mothers who had trudged 3 miles or more up the road with one child on their back and one walking hand-in-hand, just to give them the check-ups and vaccines that would give them a better chance of surviving infancy than their cousins had.
We met the health care workers in the clinic outposts, who work in structures barely the size of a two-car garage, fervently passionate for reaching patients in the towns just too far to get to the main clinic.
We peered closely at the charts on the walls, each completed with pride and remarkable detail, indicating just how many people were vaccinated in a community from month to month–and, concurrently, how many fewer people died from tuberculosis, measles, hepatitis, HIV.
And then most poignant to me, we talked to mothers who taught me that what we all want for our children is not actually the same. It’s easy to say “happiness” when you can take health for granted.
It’s easy to imagine your child living past five when that’s the rule and not the exception.
Mothers and newborn waiting for vaccinations and basic infant care
Last August, when I participated in the Blogust effort from the UN Foundations Shot @ Life to help raise money for their remarkably effective efforts, it was two months before I had ever stepped foot on the African continent and seen for myself just why their work around the world is so meaningful. I have stared into the eyes of a child who would otherwise not be living, and said to myself, “this is what vaccinations do.”
So today, my participation in their 28 Days of Impact blogging effort feels that much more personal. Which is why I feel I can ask you today to do a little more than just leave a comment.
It’s not a lot more effort…just a little. Please email your member of Congress (template already made–super easy) and ask him or her (lots of hers now!) to make sure that global healthcare and vaccines are a priority. Let them him or know that as a parent, and as a human being, that this matters.
I’ve written before about why supporting the education, health and livelihood of mothers and children in other countries isn’t just a good thing to do, it’s a smart thing to do. It’s not about “over there” versus “here” because we’re all connected. It all helps create stronger allies, better trade partners, fewer wars, more global stability.
But more specifically, this is what vaccinations do:
I’m writing as a part of Shot@Life’s ’28 Days of Impact’ Campaign. A follow up to Blogust to raise awareness for global vaccines and the work being done by Shot@Life and their partners to help give children around the world a shot at a healthy life. Each day in February, you can read another impactful story on global childhood vaccines. Tomorrow, don’t miss Jeanette Kaplun’s post on Hispana Global. See the entire list of bloggers and learn more at www.shotatlife.org/impact, and follow the hashtag #vaximpact.
All photos ©Liz Gumbinner, from the One.org ONEMoms 2012 trip to Ethiopia