“Immunizations are how we can give all children a fair start at a healthy life,” said GAVI Board Chair Dagfinn Hoybraten this morning. As we gather in Dar es Salaam for the GAVI Partners’ Forum, we are reminded in the simplest way why we have come together and our work is reaffirmed.
Over the past several days, I have participated in gatherings of Civil Society Organizations and traveled several hours outside of Dar es Salaam to the Morogoro region for a field visit. In Morogoro, our delegation met with Dr. Mtey at the Morogoro Regional Medical Office who oversees health activities in this region. He provided us with a landscape of their work at the country, region, district and local level. What struck me was how high the immunization rates are in this region – above 90 percent – even with insufficient health systems. Yet, the largest killers of children under 5 in Morogoro are:
4) Low-birth weight
5) Pre-term birth
The Tanzanian government has committed one million insecticide treated bed nets to protect against malaria. And there is a significant need for the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines to protect these children from pneumonia and diarrhea.
Morogoro is the second largest region in Tanzania with six districts, 181 wards and 613 villages. The region covers more than 73,000 square kilometers. However, there are only three hospitals, 48 health centers and 358 dispensaries. Ideally, they would have one hospital per district, one health center per ward and one dispensary per village.
Dr. Mtey then took us to a district health center and a village dispensary in Malera and Doma. We witnessed children receiving routine immunizations like the oral polio vaccine, Vitamin A and deworming tablets. At one site we visited, health days are provided in a “hut” where there is no electricity so immunizations and supplies have to be transported from the nearest dispensary. As these families don’t have access to regular health care or emergency services, regular immunizations provide these children with the first line of defense – protecting them from disease and potential death.
As we transition today to the GAVI Partners’ Forum, we come together to discuss creative and effective ways we can assist families like the ones we just met in Morogoro, as well as millions of others across developing countries, to give them access to the health care they need and ensure that all of their children get a shot at a healthy life.