Getting vaccines where they need to go and intact is no simple feat in the developing world where there may be no electricity, roads, or health facilities. Other obstacles like archaic data collecting methods using pen and paper, a lack of well-trained staff to manage the supply chain, poor transport, and no cold chain, also make vaccine delivery enormously challenging. Vaccines lost during the journey to patients, translates into millions of lost dollars – and more importantly lost lives.
Setting out with a team from the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ministry of Health, I traveled to the city of Matadi, 300km from Kinshasa. The ever declining quality of the roads as we drove further from the capital meant the journey took eight hours. Bouncing over dusty, rough tracks, we stopped along the way at rural health centers, where solar-powered refrigerators are used to safeguard the vaccines which must be stored at a constant temperature. In these remote areas, one fridge stores enough vaccines to serve thousands of people. The next morning I met Jina Kiaku Mianfipa, a vaccinator in Kizulu Sanzi. Mr. Mianfipa would travel 50 kilometers on foot and by bicycle to deliver a cooler packed with vaccines to the village of Kinze Muété. I took pictures as I followed him over rutted dirt trails, at times too bumpy and steep to ride his bicycle, but he pressed on, pushing his bike and cooler past villagers laden with baskets and babies. He waved at children and neighbors, who smiled and laughed as I tried to keep up, running alongside Mr. Mianfipa trying to capture the spirit of his work with my camera – the remote landscape, the difficulty of his journey, and the people his exertions would help.