A vaccination outreach team on the move in Tanzania. ©WHO, 2023The nomads who wander the arid Lake Chad Basin had heard about the COVID-19 pandemic but hoped they could avoid it.
Medical services are scarce in the places they go.Then clinics-on-wheels began to appear, bringing health information, state-of-the-art vaccines and health workers newly trained by the World Health Organization.
Halima Abdrahim, 60, was camped with her group near the lakeside town of Baga Sola when one such clinic rolled in. The COVID-19 presentation made sense to her, and she was the first person to step forward and take the shot."This is the first time I have been approached for the COVID-19 vaccine,” she said. “I have heard a lot about this disease and when I was told about the benefits of the vaccine, I agreed to take it.”Watching the nomads get their vaccinations was a victory for outreach worker Zoulé Youssouf.
She knew the team might not encounter that group again.“You can see them one day, then two or three days later they are already gone," Ms Youssouf said.During the vaccination campaign in Chad. ©WHO 2023For the past two years, scenes like this have played out in some of Africa’s most hard-to-reach, most fragile communities, gradually bringing them more into line or even surpassing regional averages of COVID-19 vaccination rates.A €16.6 million grant from the European Union has powered the project, which has been targeting 16 countries in Africa where protection against the virus was very low, and where there are large numbers of people living in unstable humanitarian settings.The WHO-led project ends this month, and the numbers show its impact: 34 million people have been vaccinated.