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Cold chain mission

I’d never heard of the phrase “Cold chain mission” until a few days ago when I learnt what it was while I was watching Ewan McGregor on television traveling through first through India and Nepal, and then in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And no, it wasn’t in a broadcast of one of Mr McGregor’s cinematic efforts (although I am a huge fan of the recent Beginners, am keen to watch Perfect Sense and Haywire as soon as they hit theatres near me as they look intriguing, and ok, I will even admit that I am partial to giving The Island a spin every now and then…). I came across Ewan undertaking this so-called cold chain mission in his role as a UNICEF UK Ambassador (he’s undertaken quite a few other previous missions too, such as for Soccer Aid in Peru and in Central Europe another parts of Africa maybe you have heard of them?), captured in a BBC documentary simply titled Cold Chain Mission. It’s totally worth checking out, and you can see him talking briefly about it below:

Turns out that the cold chain mission refers to the mission to immunise children in remote parts of the world that are most difficult to reach. Cold, because of the measures that have to be taken to ensure that the vaccines stay fresh and don’t go off because of the heat (practically speaking, keeping them on ice as constantly as possible), and a chain, because stops have to be made along the way to rely on the use of fridges belonging to partner organisations to keep things cold for the onward journey.

It’s pretty amazing to see the efforts being taken – not just on missions like this by Mr McGregor (where he had to travel by car, boat, helicopter, boat, canoe and foot to get to the remotest of villages on a tributary of the Ubangi river), but by human rights organisations on a regular basis – to ensure that children in even the most out-of-the-way spots are reached so they have access to the option of immunisations which will help to protect them against diseases such as TB, diphtheria and polio. The lengths that these organisations and committed humanitarian workers go to is admirable and does help to save lives.  Personally, I found it inspiring, and a good reminder of why I want to work in this area, but some others seem to have taken a decidedly more cynical view.

But whatever the critics want to say (personally I think that if celebrities are prepared to use their powers, so to speak, for good, then we should encourage it, not tear their actions down), efforts to increase global levels of immunisation importantly contribute to efforts to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals (for which, time is fast running out with 2015 approaching). Today then, it was nice to hear some good news on progress with MDG 4 (reduce child mortality), in the form of the Millennium Villages Project.

The raison d’être behind the Millennium Villages is to take a holistic approach to development, by taking efforts to improve development across all spheres in order to create long-term impact. The approach has come in for some fairly vocal criticism and questioning of the wisdom of the approach (such as this), but results of the projects released today (you can read more – as well as some more commentary here) show a drop in child mortality rates by a third, when compared to similar villages not included in the Project. That has surely got to be good news, and it will be interesting to see how the Project develops (and if it is upscaled) from here, to hopefully begin to have a positive impact on the other MDGs as we head towards 2015.


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