Photo Essay

  • Aisha Isyaku (in blue veil) is a volunteer community mobilizer and Islamic teacher. She goes from house to house with the polio vaccination team during the UNICEF polio rounds in Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria. She became a champion of polio eradication after her best friend contracted polio.
  • Sadiya Mi’azu (in blue veil) is a polio survivor and volunteer community mobilizer. She goes house to house with a polio vaccination team during the UNICEF polio rounds in Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria.
  • Sadiya Mi’azu (in blue veil) is polio survivor and volunteer community mobilizer. She goes house to house with a polio vaccination team during the UNICEF polio rounds in Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria.
  • Sadiya Mi’azu (in blue veil) is polio survivor and volunteer community mobilizer. She goes house to house with a polio vaccination team during the UNICEF polio rounds in Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria.
  • Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria.
  • Malam Jamilu Ahmed, the District Head of Dambatta during the UNICEF polio rounds in Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria. The polio vaccination team walks from home to home with during the UNICEF polio rounds in a mass immunization effort.
  • Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria.
  • Malam Jamilu Ahmed, the District Head of Dambatta during the UNICEF polio rounds in Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria.
  • A volunteer community mobilizer marking a home as she goes from house to house with a polio vaccination team during the UNICEF polio rounds in Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria.
  • Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria.
  • A volunteer community mobilizers touring local villages with a polio vaccination team during the UNICEF polio rounds in Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria. After immunizing the children inside the house, a member of the polio vaccination team marks the walls to inform people passing by that the house has been visited by vaccinators. 
  • Aisha Isyaku (in blue veil) is a volunteer community mobilizer and Islamic teacher. She goes house to house with a polio vaccination team during the UNICEF polio rounds in Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria. She became a champion of polio eradication after her best friend contracted polio.
  • A volunteer community mobilizer administering the polio vaccination to a baby during the UNICEF polio rounds in Dambatta Local Government Area, Kano State, northern Nigeria.
  • Mallam Salisu refused vaccination for his two children, who both contracted polio in Sumaila Local Government Area, Kano, northern Nigeria. The vaccination team had tried to convince him to inoculate his children but indicated that the family was chronically non-compliant.
  • Mallam Salisu, who refused vaccination for his two children in Sumaila Local Government Area, Kano, northern Nigeria. The vaccination team had tried to convince him to inoculate his children, both of which contracted polio later, indicated that the family was chronically non-compliant.
  • Inside the home of Mallam Salisu, an Islamic teacher for the children of Sumaila village, northern Nigeria. Pictured here are the children’s slates (or tablets) with Quranic verses. Salisu refused vaccination for his own two children, both have contracted polio.
  • Kano city, northern Nigeria.
  • On the road to Kano, northern Nigeria.
  • Arial view of Abuja, Nigeria.
  • Kano city, northern Nigeria.
  • A mosque in Abuja, Nigeria.
  • A police check point in Kano city, northern Nigeria where Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group, regularly mounts attacks.
  • Kano city, northern Nigeria. Aminu Tudunwada (seated on the right) is the chairman of the Polio Survivor Association of Nigeria.
  • Kano city, northern Nigeria. Aminu Tudunwada, (in the background) at home with his son. He is the chairman of the Polio Survivor Association of Nigeria.
  • Young girls in Kano city, northern Nigeria.
  • A child in Kano city, northern Nigeria.
  • This village, Badume Ward in Bichi, Kano State, northern Nigeria has a lot of children who are suffering from acute malnutrition. Some volunteers referred them to the UNICEF-supported center for treatment at Community Management of Acute Malnutrition.
  • Badume Ward in Bichi, Kano State, northern Nigeria.
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Immunizing Africa, committing to a healthy future for all

Updated
By Seth Berkley and Philippe Brault

The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa underlines one of the biggest threats to the continent: Disease. This includes many illnesses such as measles, meningitis A and whooping cough that are easily prevented in wealthier countries through routine immunization. In Africa and in the countries that do not have access to those vaccines, the diseases claim the lives of tens of thousands each year.

In fact, while four out of five children globally now receive at least a basic set of vaccines, there still are 1.5 million children who die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases, mostly in poor countries. We must reach that fifth child.

In late May, in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja, African leaders endorsed the Immunise Africa 2020 declaration, committing themselves to invest in a healthy and sustainable future for all of their nations’ children and to protect them from disease.

Such statements are important because only through the power of our convictions can we truly bring about positive change.

It is not easy in countries with undeveloped transportation infrastructure, intermittent electricity, inadequate technology and, sometimes, war. Nevertheless change is occurring. Since 2001, there have been no fewer than 140 new vaccine launches in Africa, thanks to commitments by their leaders alongside support from my organization, the GAVI Alliance, which brings together UNICEF, the World Health Organization, World Bank, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, private sector and civil society, as well as the Global Poverty Project. Working together, we have seen a significant increase in immunization coverage in Africa — from 10% in 1980 to 72% in 2012.

This has not been an easy task, and challenges remain. Vaccines must be kept cool to maintain their potency during transport, often to remote areas. Many clinics do not have sufficient or functioning equipment to keep vaccines cool. There also are shortages of data-collection tools to keep accurate records, making it hard to know if a child has received a vaccine. It can even be hard to alert a parent to bring a child to a local vaccination session to be immunized.

Now, Africa’s 50-plus nations will commit more than $700 million directly toward the cost of childhood vaccines through the GAVI Alliance for our 2016 to 2020 strategy cycle. This would make the continent of Africa among the largest investors in immunization programs supported by our Alliance, whose leading individual donors include the United Kingdom, Norwegian and U.S. governments, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This kind of commitment sends strong signals of increasing ownership by African leaders and a shift in developmental aid away from the traditional model of charity toward one built on partnership.

The GAVI Alliance was built on this model and, since it was founded in 2000, it has helped immunize 440 million people, which will save 6 million lives. Now, there is a real opportunity to do more. The Alliance has a roadmap to ramp up its activities and immunize another 300 million children by 2020. This will avert the deaths of an additional 5 million to 6 million people.

At a time when the economies of many donors are still in a delicate state of recovery, it will take commitment and conviction by donors to achieve this goal, alongside the resolve of African leaders and support of global citizens.

The United States, for example, has been a major supporter of childhood immunization, contributing $1.2 billion to the GAVI Alliance since 2000. This year, the Obama administration has requested a record $200 million for the Alliance for fiscal year 2015.  While Congress must finalize this level of funding, both the House and Senate have included $200 million in their respective funding bills. 

None of us can do it alone. Through partnership, we can help protect the world’s most vulnerable children.

Dr. Seth Berkley is the CEO of the GAVI Alliance, a public-private global health partnership committed to increasing access to immunization in poor countries.

Philippe Brault is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker based in Paris.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography

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