somalia 2

“Somalia is an example of a political apocalypse!” Those are the words of a friend of mine when I quizzed him on his thoughts on that country. For many Somalia is an example of all that could possibly go wrong in a country. But what many don’t see is the incredible progress being made under all the turmoil that much of the media simply misses!

For example a new five-in-one vaccine that could save the lives of millions of children across Africa was recently launched in Somalia according to UNICEF. The Somali government announced the vaccine would protect children against five deadly diseases that kill so many each year.

The announcement was made on 24th April and the vaccine was launched the following day as part of a nationwide campaign. Since then vaccinations have been given to thousands of vulnerable children in Mogadishu, Garowe and Hargeisa.

The five-in-one vaccine, also known as “pentavalent vaccine” is already used in 170 countries worldwide but has for a long time been unavailable to many in Africa. Furthermore considering the continuously volatile political situation and critical status of humanitarian aid in Somalia signals a real breakthrough in efforts to help the nation.

Somalia has received 1.3million doses of the vaccine for 2013. This is an amount capable of immunising the estimated 425,000 children that are born each year in the country.

Widespread famine has been a lifelong issue in Eastern Africa as a whole and this has inevitably resulted in widespread disease due to lack of nutrition. Food and medical are therefore not just a necessity but a valuable commodity being exploited by rebel forces like Al-Shabaab. With much of these supplies largely controlled by groups like Al-Shabaab amid all the violent conflict means many can miss out on what they need to stay alive.

Internal resilience by organizations such as UNICEF means that hard-fought campaigns such as the one to bring this vaccine to many threatened with starvation and disease are starting to gain momentum.

Not only does praise have to go to organizations like UNICEF but also the Somali government for their continued support. Despite the ever-present conflict going on around them it is clear that efforts are being made to support the majority of the country that live in critical conditions.

At each of the three launches in Mogadishu, Garowe and Hargeisa were numerous representatives from some of the world’s leading foreign healthcare organizations including UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). Aswell as the success of the initial launches the project is part of an even bigger national campaign to spread awareness to parents around the country on the importance of immunising their children.

How the country and those aiding it plan to successfully spread this awareness campaign is going to be interesting to see also. Much humanitarian work in all regions of the country is struggling to work outside the strict boundaries that already surround them for their own safety. Nevertheless no-one can deny that it is a life-long issue that must be addressed.

The key then right now is to find a successful way of integrating this breakthrough into the already intricate system of humanitarian and medical service in the country. Along with the obvious financial difficulties that countries like Somalia suffer from is the constant danger surrounding their work. As I mentioned before any form of movement around the country is a very tricky business before even considering the movement of such a campaign.

The lack of internal stability within the country that has been a problem for so many years now means that constant shifts in power are the norm. A situation such as this can threaten progress made through scientific and humanitarian advances such as the pentavalent vaccination. Not only could a medical breakthrough do so much to improve the image of a country with a reputation like Somalia’s but it also has the potential to branch out into larger opportunities to neighbouring countries.

A vaccine like this that will be beyond vital to the health of Eastern African nations could be a commodity for the good whilst kept in the right hands. With the appropriate co-operation between those of higher standing there is major hope for better lives for millions living in countries in Eastern Africa. It doesn’t take a genius to know that such a situation cannot develop overnight but setting things in motion has the potential to do an incredible amount of good in the long term.

Much coverage in the mainstream media of events on the continent constantly reminds us of the bloody and relentless violence going on as both governments and rebels look for control from one country to the next for different reasons. Past conflict over diamonds in Sierra Leone and the continuing problems in the Congo that I wrote about not long ago are prime examples.

But what many miss whether intentionally or not is the work going on to help the work of the likes of UNICEF and the launch of this vaccine for the first time in Eastern Africa is a good example. Small victories and progress in areas such as this can only have positive implications for millions of struggling people in the coming years and it is high time that successes such as this are noticed and commended more often.

ROBERT PRITCHARD
Information sourced from the following links:-
• http://allafrica.com/stories/201304260066.html
• http://www.unicef.org.uk/UNICEFs-Work/What-we-do/UNICEFs-work-on-immunisation/pentavalent-vaccine-cold-chain/