Agboville, Côte d’Ivoire
Of all the precious things I saw today (and there are many) my favorite has to be the little girl in the pink dress who was showing her blue pinky nail to all the other little children around her. Every child had blue marks on their pinkies, but that did not stop this little girl from being proud of hers. And proud she should be, for after being so patient on a hot November day, she was able to be vaccinated for measles, get a Vitamin A supplement and de-worming medicine (however unpleasant they may have tasted), and receive a life-saving insecticide-treated bed net. It was a big day for such a little person.
Mothers and fathers waited in long lines today to help improve the health of their children. Clearly the word had spread since the campaign began yesterday. In some areas there were reports of the line beginning to form by 6 a.m.
At each of the seven sites I visited today in Agboville I saw different variations in the ways in which the vaccination/distribution posts were organized. At one site, for instance, a line was formed under the cover of an awning (providing shade) and as the crowd waited, a community health worker moved through the line, filling out the pink health card with each child’s name and age. At regular intervals, another community health volunteer would let roughly 15-20 children and their caregivers move through the stations at a time – first the measles vaccination station, then the Vitamin A and de-worming, and finally the insecticide-treated net station. When they were finished he would let the next 15 children go. The process was running seamlessly.
No matter how the site was organized, however, each child had the fingernail on their left pinky finger colored blue. I was scolded this afternoon for trying to color within the lines of the pinky fingernail – a feat I was honestly quite proud of given how small those fingernails are on such young children. But the point was clear that this blue marking on the pinky was crucial. That blue pinkie proved that she had completed all the steps to being a healthier, safer little girl.