Dear Friends, March 2015
When we delivered a new solar freezer to Vanga last January the zone office was humming with activity like a busy factory. Throughout the morning watchmen arrived with cool boxes, had their cool packs replaced with frozen ones and were sent back to their health centers with a load of vaccines and syringes. Used cool packs were washed, refilled with water, and added to the stock to be frozen. Later in the day, the quantity of frozen cool packs ran out, so watchmen spent the night at Vanga waiting for more packs to freeze.
Some of our generation in America are denying their children the protection of vaccinations. (Would they also allow them to ride a bike without a helmet?)
We in Congo are part of a host of people going to great effort to insure that the poorest child in the most remote village is protected with life-saving vaccinations. It is an enormous logistical challenge. The vaccines must be kept below a certain temperature from the site of manufacture to the moment of injection. This means maintaining a ‘cold chain’ for several months and thousands of miles. Should a vaccine, in transit, rise above a certain temperature, even for an hour or two, it might be rendered useless and the population unprotected. At Vanga we were witnessing the last link in the chain.
The problem at Vanga was that their ten-year-old solar freezer broke and they were limited to using a smaller solar unit that only barely froze packs to meet demand. They had a perfectly good kerosene powered freezer but it cost $12,000 a year in kerosene to run.
A supervisor is in charge of Vanga’s vaccines and cold chain. He has two functional solar refrigerators well stocked with vaccines, whose temperature he records faithfully twice a day on a chart on the lid. It is his job also to order ahead of time the six different vaccines in quantities needed by the children among the zone’s 200,000 residents
In the surrounding countryside, up to thirty miles away as distance requires, health center nurses send their watchmen to Vanga on foot, by bicycle, or motorcycle to get vaccines for the following day. Health Centers program vaccination sessions twice a month, and organize reaching half the children (via their parents) in their area on each of those two days.
We are gratified to report the new solar freezer we delivered froze cool packs rock hard overnight. “The watchmen are so pleased because they no longer are turned away and accomplish their task in minutes to return home”, Dr. Lay reported recently.
Shortly after we delivered the freezer we received an official letter of thanks from Dr. Lay (with copies to district and provincial authorities) indicating our gift would:
• Increase vaccination coverage of the zone’s children
• Increase the quality of care in the health zone
• Increase the population’s confidence in the health zone’s services.
We pass these thanks on to you, who support us. Our presence here and ability to negotiate funds to purchase freezers and organize their installation is a great encouragement to our Christian medical colleagues such as Dr. Lay.