Immunization on the Front Line
Countries like Mozambique have made enormous progress on vaccination coverage in the last 20 years. But, if poor countries are to ensure that all of their children are immunized against preventable diseases, it is important to understand the challenges that they have had to address so far.
MAPUTO – Most of the news one hears coming out of Mozambique is bad – poverty, disease, conflict, and floods. But there are a lot of good things happening in my country, too.
In the past two decades, Mozambique has become a functioning democracy; grown its agriculture sector; raised literacy rates; increased water supply and electricity in rural areas; and reduced child mortality dramatically, from 219 per 1,000 live births in 1990, two years before the civil war ended, to 135 per 1,000 in 2010. I am particularly proud of the last achievement, because, by working in partnership with my fellow Mozambicans to expand immunization coverage, I believe that I have played a part in bringing it about.
I grew up in Mozambique when the country was still under Portuguese rule, and the inequality in our colonial society shaped my view that all people have a right to health care. I remember working at a pediatric ward as a teenager and watching children die from diseases like polio, measles, and tetanus – all easily prevented by vaccines. The impact of that experience led me to spend the next 40 years working to ensure that every child in Mozambique, regardless of her ethnicity or where she lives, gets the vaccines that she needs to help her lead a long and healthy life.