As much as I have been here with the specific purpose of highlighting the incredible work that is done to make sure children in Mozambique receive their life-saving immunisations, I thought I sort of knew what to expect. How wrong I was. This is a compete journey of discovery in more ways than I imagined possible.
I knew there were remote areas in Mozambique, that was the point; follow the journey of a vaccine to a remote area, to the child that receives it. What I didn't consider, was just how remote an area is, when there is no regular or reliable public transport to connect it to the towns and cities. This means that a village, just a couple of hours away by car, is almost impossibly far, when there is no motorised transport and one is carrying a sick child. Yet this is what parents (usually mothers, as the men are often away working, if they can find a job) are faced with in the more distant communities.
At the district clinic, on the outskirts of Guija, I met women who had travelled for hours and hours, to make certain their babies received essential immunisations. They were absolutely reliant on the healthcare workers who work at the clinic and provide, not only essential medical care, but also education and information about hygiene, child nutrition and disease prevention.
This district healthcare clinic is the central repository for vaccines in the region. The vials are stored in fridges and must be strictly temperature controlled and kept between 2C and 8C. If they get too warm or too cold, they will be unusable. To get the vaccines out into the remote villages, they are transported in insulated boxes, by motorbike.
I met a Ministry of Health Outreach Worker, Amelia, who has the responsibility of transporting and administering the vaccines in these distant areas. We followed in our truck, as Amelia rode pillion on a motorbike, ridden by another healthcare worker. As they travelled, Amelia had to hold two boxes, one over each arm. The village we were visiting was only around half an hour away from the district centre, but some journeys can take four hours, on roads that are pitted with potholes and sandy tracks that are rugged and dangerous.
As we approached April 7th Village, (named after the date of Mozambique's National Women's Day) we saw a group of women, with babies, sat under a tree. This was the clinic. A beautiful, big tree, with wide-spread branches providing shade from the sun. Some of the women had travelled to the clinic from other, further afield villages, and had waited for almost four hours.
The first health worker began by addressing the group with a lesson on breast-feeding. The women sat, listened carefully and even answered in chorus, when questions were asked. They value every bit of education they can get, both for themselves and for their children. At the end of this session, the women clapped in appreciation and began lining up to have their babies weighed.
Such bonny babies, healthy and well-fed; a benefit of being close to a small town. I watched, played peek-a-boo and shared with mothers pictures of myown children, all at home on half term, probably driving their Dad to distraction. I stood among the women, who all love their children, just as much as I love mine and understood why some of them would travel and wait for hours and hours, to give their children the best chance of survival.
This is Dulsa Costa. She received the vaccine we have followed on this amazing journey. "Mr Vaccine". Make sure there are more children like her, who have a much better chance of surviving past their fifth birthday. Help us to make the voices of children like Dulsa, heard by world leaders. You can help right now with no more effort than a click of your mouse key and a few taps on your keyboard. No money, no effort. Sign the petition, please.
Doesn't every child deserve a healthy start in life? We can help to make sure they get it. Sign the petition, now. Don't think "I'll do it later," do it NOW. Please.