Love letter to vaccines champions

Let's build a world where #LongLifeForAll is a reality!

Abdoulaye Bagayoko
The Immunization Officer Abdoulaye is giving advice to Fanta Sangaré so that she can follow the vaccination of her child. Village of Kombaca, in the village of Sofara, Mopti region in central Mali.
© UNICEF/UN0293610/Dicko
29 April 2022

As Immunization Officer at UNICEF field office in Mopti, every year we plan for and are able to vaccinate at least 70% of targeted children in the region.  We manage to do this in spite the security crisis, and even extend our immunization activities to cover those living in Internally Displaced Persons sites. Each time I visit these sites and see children vaccinated, it brings back memories of my own childhood, a time when routine vaccines for children were first introduced.

I always relive the memory of brothers I lost at a very young age, all of them were victims of diseases which are preventable today thanks to vaccination. The course of history guided my career towards becoming an immunization officer for UNICEF, the world's largest vaccine provider. In Mali, according to the latest Demographic and Health Survey, 45% of children received all basic vaccines. This was a result achieved through the efforts of all vaccines champions, who leave no stone unturned in their efforts to reach every child, no matter where s/he can be found.

However, I too was once a child and, like most of the children we work for, I probably owe my life to vaccines. It is therefore with great pleasure and gratitude that I address this love letter to all these immunization heroes and heroines, together with all personnel of UNICEF. I write this letter on behalf of every child who is alive today, thanks to the vaccines they received.

Un enfant joyeux
UNICEF Mali/2018/Keita

It seemed important to me to say thank you on my name but also on behalf of each of us at UNICEF!

Thank you to the scientists who, night and day, research into vaccine production and are constantly thinking about developing new ones or improving them; and by so doing help to secure a long life for every child.

Thank you to the partners who support vaccination. Without their efforts and contributions, each year, 3 million lives could not be saved worldwide.

Thank you to the Malian State and to the authorities of each region, committed to see all children growing up healthy and guaranteeing them access to fundamental rights, in particular the right to health, survival and development.

Thank you to all these community health workers who have for decades braved and continue to brave all the security, geographical and climatic challenges, travelling on camels, on donkey carts, on boats or climbing the hills so that vaccines reach every Malian child.

Thank you to community leaders who support immunization by mobilizing their communities for the well-being of children.

Thank you to the parents and guardians, especially to mothers who travel tens of kilometers to have their children vaccinated.

I am sharing this letter with you, yes, this love letter, but what love do l speak of? Love for vaccines and vaccination, love for warning about vaccine-preventable diseases, love for your commitment in all spheres, each one of you, love for children with displaced parents, love for all these innovations and initiatives implemented in Mali, such as the use of solar fridges to keep vaccines at the right temperature and offer quality vaccines to children.

I address this love letter to all of you, because, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we have maintained routine vaccination services. We have gone on to develop strategies to boost routine immunization in the areas most affected by rumors around vaccination by continuing to provide accurate and beneficial information to everyone.

Mamadou Kassé 29 ans, voyage à bord d'une charrette d’âne pour administrer des vaccins aux enfants du village Kankelena au Mali. Le déploiement de vaccinateurs mobiles dans le but d'atteindre les populations vulnérables est l'une des approches mises en place par l'UNICEF et ses partenaires pour atteindre tous les enfants.
UNICEF/UN0293636/Keïta

Every year, vaccines save the lives of some 3 million children. But there are still some kids who miss out. In Mali, according to the latest Demographic and Health Survey, 14% of children aged 0 to 11 months have not received a single vaccine dose. As we invest to recover from the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to build health systems that reach every child. So, I also address this love letter to decision makers, to those who take health care seriously, because we wouldn't be where we are today, and we couldn't go even further tomorrow if they were not committed to universal health care.

Now there’s just one person left to thank: you. Yes, it is indeed to you, who are reading the letter at this very moment.

I am sending you this love letter because, if you’ve ever been vaccinated, or have had your children vaccinated, then you are part of the chain of linked arms that keeps us all safe. You are the living proof of what humanity can do through dedication, cooperation and love.

From me and from everyone at UNICEF, from every parent who cares about his or her child health and from every child alive today on account of vaccines, thank you.

 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Let's build a world where #LongLifeForAll is a reality!

 

Abdoulaye Bagayoko

Immunization Officer at UNICEF