The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is confronting families with the threat of a disease outbreak in their communities. It reveals what is at stake when we lack the protective shield of immunization.
There is no vaccine yet to protect against COVID-19. Health systems around the world are overstretched and the longer the pandemic continues, the more essential health services like vaccinations will be disrupted.
Vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent outbreaks of dangerous diseases. Yet approximately 13 million children globally are not receiving any vaccines, putting them and their communities at risk of disease and death. The poorest and most marginalized children who need these life-saving immunizations the most are the least likely to get it. Many children in remote communities are underserved or missed by vaccination programmes altogether.
The COVID-19 outbreak is a terrible reminder that vulnerability anywhere is a threat to public health everywhere. UNICEF is committed to safely providing essential health services, including vaccinations, for children in the most affected countries, preventing and containing further disease outbreaks.
This photo series highlights the lengths to which health workers – always on the front lines – and others in the community will go to deliver vaccines to some of the hardest-to-reach places on the planet.
Cambodia: Health workers take a speedboat across the Mekong River to reach a small village for an outreach mission.
Timor Leste: A vaccinator team wades across a pool below a waterfall, bound for a village accessible only by foot, as part of a ministry of health campaign against measles, rubella and polio.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo: A community relay (volunteer) crosses a stream with his bicycle to vaccinate children in a remote health zone in Tanganyika Province. Community relays volunteer to monitor for diseases or gaps in vaccinations, to educate on vaccination needs and to administer vaccines when needed.
India: A health worker navigates muddy roads by motorbike in a remote district of Himachal Pradesh, carrying vaccines for a measles-rubella vaccination campaign for children between 9 months and 15 years of age.
Yemen: A mobile vaccination team reaches a one-room house on the outskirts of Sana’a, in an area inaccessible by road.
Mali: A vaccination team travels by donkey cart to reach a remote village in the Mopti region, where families wait for their children to be vaccinated. In Mopti, one in four households is more than 15 km away from the nearest health centre and there is only one qualified doctor for every 18,000 people.
Papua New Guinea: Families travel in dugout canoes to a mobile clinic in Kambaramba village, to have their children vaccinated against polio. The country was declared polio-free in 2000 but 2018 brought an outbreak, with 26 cases confirmed across nine provinces, prompting a national polio vaccination campaign supported by UNICEF and partners.
Nepal: A team including a local health official, carries vaccines provided by UNICEF across a footbridge spanning a river. They are on their way to a measles, rubella and polio vaccination campaign at a health post in Gorkha District, the epicentre of the April 2015 earthquake.
Afghanistan: A female health worker vaccinates a child in an old military barrack in southern Afghanistan. She is one of 70,000 committed polio workers, one of the largest female workforces in the country, fighting polio. Female polio workers are critical because only women are allowed to access a family's home to check that every infant child has been vaccinated.
Vanuatu: A midwife and her assistant walk for three hours along the coast to deliver vaccines to a small village clinic. There are no refrigerators there to maintain the cold chain so the vaccines will have to be administered immediately on arrival.
Pakistan: Health workers cross the Indus River by boat to vaccinate young children against polio in Sindh Province.
Malawi: UNICEF and the Government launched a drone testing corridor in 2017 – the first of its kind in Africa – for a number of humanitarian uses, including the delivery of vaccines.
Mongolia: Vaccinators travel to a remote area by reindeer. With winter approaching, they are undergoing a lengthy journey – requiring travel by car, hand-drawn ferry, reindeer and on foot – to reach and vaccinate children from a nomadic herder community.