At the EVO conference I just attended, a keynote was given by representatives from Shot@Life, a UN foundation that works to provide vaccinations to children all around the world. I was so moved and excited, and to get involved they asked each of us to share their story.
These little boys are from South America. And because of the work of Shot@Life, they have a chance to experience all of the wonderful milestones of childhood. Laughing till it hurts. Staying up too late. Making up silly games. Giggling under the covers. Having a best friend.
Every 20 seconds a child somewhere in the world dies from a vaccine preventable disease. Things that aren’t even on my list of things to worry about. Pneumonia, polio, measles, diarrhea. I work every day to help Atti deal with his cerebral palsy to become as mobile and able as possible, and all around the world 1 in 5 children don’t have access to the basic immunizations that we take for granted. If Atti was born in a developing nation, he wouldn’t have stood a chance. Our case was so rare and complicated that even the advances of Western medicine give us a lot of work to do. In most other places in the world, his not walking would be the least of his problems.
There are a lot of factors that make immunizing children in developing nations difficult. Areas of civil conflict are too dangerous for health workers. Ethnic minorities are discriminated against and not given access to health care. And there’s also the problem of education. Without an understanding of science and medical care, some parents are resistant to allowing immunizations for their children because of traditional, religious, or mystical beliefs about disease. For years I’ve been interested in Uganda, the Congo, and Sudan. I’ve served on boards of charities, donated money, and told their stories. The women in this region of the world have so much working against them, and on top of everything else, their children are under threat from these totally preventable diseases.
My son is the light of my life. His disability makes me think every day of the children who don’t have access to the care he receives. Every mother deserves to raise her child to adulthood, and vaccinations are the simplest, cheapest, most effective way of helping that happen.
In August Shot@Life will be hosting a blog carnival where every comment on specific blog posts will fund a child’s vaccination. One comment and a child is saved. It’s pretty amazing. I’ll share more information when I have it so you can play along with me and help children just by doing what you already do – reading blogs.