World Immunization Week: A boy in a remote Ethiopian village gets his first shots

World Immunization Week: A boy in a remote Ethiopian village gets his first shots

This story originally appeared on and is cross posted here with permission.

Nyabel Both lives in a remote village in the Gambella region of Ethiopia, where common childhood diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhea are a constant threat.

Yet Nyabel has managed something wonderful: Her one-year-old son has been vaccinated for measles, polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae—in other words, she has fully immunized her child.

1.5 million children die each year from preventable diseases. Globally, 1 in 5 children—nearly 22 million—go without vital immunizations that could protect their health and lives.

Nyabel knew about the importance of immunization because of the community health volunteers in her district. Trained by the International Rescue Committee, these volunteers travel door to door, providing mothers and fathers with lifesaving health information, including the benefits of timely vaccination for children under the age of one.

“When I had my first two children, I never knew about this need,” Nyabel says. “Once I learned about the benefits, I knew I had to do whatever I could to make sure my baby was vaccinated.”

But Nyabel’s village has no health facility. The young mother had to walk three miles across lonely countryside to reach the nearest health center. But for many parents in the region, finding a clinic is no guarantee of immunization.

Many facilities run low on supplies and do not know when the next shipment will arrive. They are often hampered by shortages of fuel to transport supplies and to power the refrigerators necessary to store the perishable vaccines.

In response, the IRC is working with the Ethiopian government to ensure clinics have functional refrigerators and motorbikes and a sufficient supply of fuel. We also support routine immunizations and mass immunization campaigns at health centers and in communities.

The IRC has found that, “across the board, parents seek out the free, quality immunization services once they hear about them in their communities,” says Shiferaw Demissie, a health coordinator for the IRC in Ethiopia. “Many have to travel distances, but once they have the information about the health benefits of immunization, they were willing to go. They were excited to share the information with their neighbors.”

“I’ve been sharing the information with others in my community,” Nyabel confirms. “I’m proud of this ability to protect my child.”

This post is part of the #ProtectingKids blog series. Read the whole series here.