Sunday, January 31, 2010


An important part of preparation for going to the developing world is to make sure immunizations are up to date. A few of mine weren't. So, today I received my tetanus shot. Fortunately a doctor & friend was able to order it for me fairly quickly and this morning after the church service he was able to administer the immunization as well. Monday morning I'm off to another doctor's office for one more shot. Yes, I have to run around a bit for these shots, but in the end I'll get them.

I consider myself fortunate.

For thousands of people in the world, immunizations are not available or accessible. Many children still lack their childhood immunizations - making them at risk for diseases like polio, tetanus, measles, pertussis, hepatitis, etc. Diseases that can have a huge impact on a child's life and even lead to death. In Sierra Leone I have seen the polio victims, crawling on the ground or begging downtown in their wheelchairs. I have seen children suffering from tetanus, a horrible disease which can so easily be prevented.

These are the less fortunate.

What we so often take for granted, are things that others can only dream of. This void of immunizations in many places is causing unnecessary disabilities and death. Of course, it's not only about availability and access. It is also about education and mothers/fathers understanding the importance of the immunizations, the cold chain, overcoming the fears of side effects, parents prioritizing their child's health, and frowning on the healthcare workers that illegally charge families for free immunizations. It is complicated. But it is not impossible.

As I am preparing for Haiti I hear that tetanus and measles are on the rise. This is not a surprise when the wounds are high-risk for tetanus. And as malnutrition increases, children are more and more susceptible to diseases such as measles. We hear a lot about the surgical/trauma needs which, I agree, are huge. But what about the primary health care structure? What happened to the clinics that were providing immunizations? What happened to the vitamin A distribution? Where can all of the children with malnutrition go for their nutritional supplements? The entire system is run down. And apparently, even before the earthquake only half of the children were properly immunized in Haiti. The need now is greater than ever.

I wish I could bring thousands of immunizations with me. But of course it's not so easy for small organizations to bring in thousands of immunizations because they need to be refrigerated. There is a 'cold chain' needed. However, fortunately I hear that UNICEF is bringing in immunizations and will start up a campaign to immunize children against diptheria, tetanus and measles. I hope they reach many children. I also hope that the children will be given food supplies. And that other preventive measures will be implemented across the board: mosquito nets, vitamin A supplementation, hygiene advice, sanitary facilities. The list is long. And it is a huge task. But without these measures, the burden of disease will be even greater, taking a toll on the many children in Haiti.

Does anyone have a couple of pots of non-expired vitamin A capsules they want to donate to the cause?

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~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~