Today I received what the nurse called “the deluxe package” of vaccinations in preparation for my trip to Rwanda. Speaking of which, did I even mention that I’m going to Rwanda?! On December 30th I leave for a trip of a lifetime. I will join young leaders from around the world for the UNESCO International Leadership Programme: A Global Intergenerational Forum in Kigali, Rwanda. Together, we will learn, grow and advance human rights around the world. I am so unbelievably excited for this opportunity.
Back to the deluxe package of vaccinations though. As the doctor at the travel clinic was giving me instructions and prescriptions, this thought came to me: here I am getting all of these vaccinations and pills for things like Malaria, while over 900,000 people – mostly children – will die from this same disease this year. I literally walk in to a travel clinic, get a few shots and a prescription, pay nothing, and walk out defended against deadly viruses and diseases. At the same time, the exact same virus or disease is killing someone because they do not have access to this medicine.
What’s wrong with this picture? Why are children dying en masse every day from something that I was so easily vaccinated for? Is my life worth more than their lives?
These are the questions that fester in my mind. Quite honestly, they anger me. I am thankful that I have such access to these life-saving medicines, but angry that we can live in such an unjust world. That’s what it boils down to: justice. There is nothing just about children dying from a mosquito bite, when a treatment exists. Period.
These vaccinations remind me why I am going to this forum. We should feel bad about having such access to resources, while others perish from a lack of resources. And then we should act on that feeling. I go to this forum knowing that we can collectively achieve great things and that we have the power to do so. Together, in solidarity with those we seek to help, we can advance human rights. It is up to us to vaccinate the world from disease, viruses, hunger, hatred, and hopelessness.