Global Motherhood: Awareness and Access to Information Can Help Prevent Disease

JALOZAI, PAKISTAN - JULY 13: Ishak 3 months, is held by his mother, displaced from her home due to the Pakistan Army's latest
JALOZAI, PAKISTAN - JULY 13: Ishak 3 months, is held by his mother, displaced from her home due to the Pakistan Army's latest Military offensive in the Bara area of Khyber Tribal Region in Northwest Pakistan, receives polio vaccination drops at the Merlin clinic at the Jalozai UNHCR Camp for Internally Displaced Person's (IDP's) on July 13, 2012 in Jalozai, Pakistan. The remote Tribal regions of Pakistan have been off-limits for Polio outreach vaccination teams due to security risks from militants. Since January of this year, thousands of IDP's from the Bara area in Khyber Tribal Region, have been forced to flee their homes due to the latest offensive by the Pakistan Military against militants in the area. 'It has been a window of opportunity for us to be able to vaccinate people from the Tribal regions during this last influx (of IDP's) from Bara' said Dr Imran from the Merlin Clinic at the Jalozai Camp. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

I am a mother in India, and in November 2005 when I was pregnant and in my second trimester, I contracted Hepatitis A. The disease was fairly simple to manage and not life-threatening. Having easy access to quality health care, my life was pretty smooth, even though quite stressful. I am an educated woman with a master's degree in engineering and worked in a leading corporate company. My parents are highly educated too, and my husband is a physician himself. I live in a cosmopolitan and highly developed area of the country. My experience made me realize that Hepatitis A is not something only contracted by people with poor sanitation and lack of hygienic water, and it moved me.

Even though I had read a lot about pregnancy and medically knew so much about various developmental stages of foetus and diets for pregnant women, I was not prepared for such unexpected diseases. Vaccination camps, awareness initiatives, field work, are not just for the under developed areas where poverty is at its highest and sanitation is at its lowest. Awareness is especially needed also for the highly educated, busy, modern women and their families who are living under the protection of knowledge and clean surroundings, because we do not know when that weak moment in the environment will find a way to target us. My experience has led me to want to champion a disease-free world.

I am doing my share with the help of World Moms Blog, a collaborative website about international motherhood that I am a part of, and the resources of the GAVI Alliance, Shot@Life and the UN Foundation to educate and help develop awareness for vaccinations in the developing world.

For example, in my hometown in India, I recently threw a "GAVI Global Tea Party." These parties are part of a global grass-roots initiative for vaccination advocacy for the children who need them most and were developed by World Moms Blog. They enable everyday global conversations around vaccinations. Here, in India, my tea party revolved around importance of vaccinations in Africa where sanitation is poor and incidence and prevalence of diseases are high. We also spoke about India being declared polio free this year. The party sent across a wonderful message about adhering to the vaccination schedule to eradicate a particular disease from a generation of people.

There are so many easily manageable diseases out there which can catch us unaware, and if we do not have the awareness and information of symptoms and management, it is going to be really tough. Access to information is so important.

So, I say, talk about it. Write about it. Throw a GAVI Global Tea Party. Blogging is a powerful tool. Don't have one? Start your own blog, like I have. Seek information. Talk about your fears in your immediate social circle. Read information enriched blogs. No woman or baby should have to undergo suffering because of lack of information or awareness.