A little vial of medicine or a shot in the arm of a crying toddler who's scared of needles might not sound like the ideal gift, but for some it is all they want. Meet four people that will tell you why vaccines are so precious and important.

Asadullah, 19, was born during a long period of fighting in Afghanistan when vaccine workers were unable to reach him with the polio vaccine. © UNICEF/UN0202786/Hibbert


“When you are paralysed, you don’t exist."

 

Meet Asadullah


Polio survivor, Asadullah, was born during a long period of fighting in Afghanistan when vaccine workers were unable to reach and immunise him against polio.

"I am half a man, half a person," the 19-year-old says. I can’t even do simple things and I must be carried by my friends. It is humiliating. Imagine how it feels to be someone’s luggage.”

Southern Afghanistan has the highest number of polio cases in the world and is just one of four countries - including Nigeria, Pakistan and recently Papua New Guinea - that still carries the polio virus.

Asadullah finds it frustrating that he lost his legs because of a virus that could have been prevented.

But despite this, he is working with Afghan TV and radio to encourage all parents to “give their child the life he never had”.  

"I wasn't part of the war, I didn't fight. My friends lost their legs due to the war, but I wasn't involved, so why do I deserve this?" says Asadullah.
 
Give the gift of health
Baby Tate receives the rotavirus vaccination protecting her from the deadly disease. © UNICEF/UN0200260/Knowles


“In Kiribati, children are always playing in the dirt and getting sick."

 

Meet baby Tate


Six-month-old Tate isn't fazed by nurse Rooti squeezing her cheeks and administering the rotavirus vaccine. This will protect her against sever diarrhoea - one of the leading causes of child mortality rates across the pacific region. 

Tate's mother, Bubunrenea, knows just how important vaccinations are for babies like Tate. 

"In Kiribati, children are always playing in the dirt and getting sick," she says. 
"It's very important to control these diseases and prevent the death of these children."

One in 18 children die before their fifth birthday in Kiribati. These children often die from illnesses which are preventable. 
 
© UNICEF/UN0253981/DEJONGH
Rotavirus vaccinations Rotavirus vaccinations
Rotavirus vaccinations

A gift that can save lives

More than 215,000 children under five-years-old die annually from rotavirus infections, which infect nearly every child at least once before the age of 5. This vaccine forms a comprehensive strategy to control this deadly virus.

Give the gift of protection.


 
Fatoumata, smiling, cradles her sleeping three-day-old twins in her lap. © UNICEF/UN0198195/Njiokiktjien VII Photo


“Aside from a few dentist’s visits, they don’t get sick."


Meet Fatoumata and her newborn twins


Fatoumata is a big fan of vaccines. Her newborn twin girls, Foune and Wassa, were vaccinated against polio the day after their birth.

She says all five of her children are very healthy because they have been immunised against diseases such as polio, yellow fever and measles.  

“This is largely thanks to the vaccination programme," Fatoumata says. They prevent them from getting dangerously ill. They would otherwise get sick more often.”

In Bougouni, Mali, vaccines are stored in UNICEF-donated fridges to ensure the temperature stays consistent. If at any stage the vaccine’s temperature drops below two degrees or rises above eight, it can become unusable.

Fatoumata has one message to parents: “Do you see my children? All five of them, they never get sick. That’s because of the vaccines and the vaccination programme.”
 
Kadidia holds her newborn Nahawa. Nahawa is her 10th child - four were stillborn and one died after contracting tetanus. © UNICEF/UN0237235/Dicko
Give the gift of health


“I had started to breastfeed her, but then she stopped drinking and started convulsing."


Meet Kadidia


This mother has been through the pain of losing a child not once, not twice, but five times. Kadidia’s first four babies were stillborn. Her fifth baby died from a preventable disease at just three days old.

"She had tetanus,” Kadidia says.

Tetanus is a disease that strikes the poorest and most vulnerable, especially women and their newborns living in areas with limited access to health services and poor hygiene.

The disease is often transmitted when the umbilical cord is cut under unsanitary conditions. In remote rural areas of developing countries, which have limited or no access to medical care, almost all newborns infected with tetanus die.

“After she died, the doctors vaccinated all the other women between 15 and 49-years-old in my village to prevent the disease from spreading to other babies,” Kadidia says.

Earlier this year, Kadidia gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Nahawa. After her birth, hospital staff trained by UNICEF, made sure Nahawa received vaccinations so that she could grow up strong and healthy.
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