The Fight to Replenish the GAVI Alliance for Vaccine Fund

Shouldn’t a child be given the same shot of life no matter where he or she is born? I believe that children everywhere deserve the chance to live and reach their full potential. The availability of life-saving vaccines for every child is critical.


For those of you who have followed my blog for years, you know that besides blogging I am also an active advocate and activist for a number of important causes. I advocate for the ONE Campaign to eradicate global poverty, ONE Women and Girls to help elevate the status and well-being of women and girls around the world, RESULTS (another advocacy group that works to advocate with our members of Congress to affect policy on ending poverty) and the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign, a grassroots organization aimed at providing global vaccines to the developing world. All of these causes are truly important to me and I am amazed how much I’ve personally grown by being a part of each organization and using my voice to effect positive change.

As an advocate for global vaccines, I’ve worked hard as a Shot@Life Champion since the campaign launched almost three years ago. Working with Shot@Life has taught me many things about the value of vaccines and the importance of their availability around the world in saving lives. Before I joined Shot@Life, I had no idea that every twenty seconds a child dies from a vaccine-preventable death. Every twenty seconds!

The tragic statistics combined with the reality that this is a fixable, solvable problem that truly does not cost much, invigorated me to join the cause and fight for funding of global vaccines.

Young girls in Mozambique show off their newly updated vaccination card.  All photos : Shot@Life--UN Foundation, Mozambique, Wednesday, June 1, 2011 (Photo/Stuart Ramson)

Young girls in Mozambique show off their newly updated vaccination card.
Shot@Life–UN Foundation, Mozambique, Wednesday, June 1, 2011 (Photo/Stuart Ramson)

This January, world leaders are meeting to discuss the replenishment of the GAVI global fund for vaccines. This meeting comes at a critical moment in time. A time where we have seen amazing progress in the reduction of under age five deaths thanks to the provision of global vaccines.

At the meeting,  global leaders and private donors will make commitments for the next five-year plan of GAVI’s funding (years 2016-2020). The goal is to achieve 7.5 billion, and the United States, one of the top four funders of the GAVI Alliance, is being asked to commit to 1 billion dollars. It is an ambitious and reasonable goal. (In case you are wondering, the top donor last year was the UK, followed by the Gates Foundation and Norway. The US came in fourth).

We have made significant progress in combatting preventable deaths in children under age 5 by providing access to vaccines.

We have made significant progress in combatting preventable deaths in children under age 5 by providing access to vaccines. Photo credit: Gavi Alliance

Before I dive into GAVI and their great work, I’d like to tell a story. In early September I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Namala Patrick Mkopi, the Secretary General of Tanzania’s Pediatric Association. I met Dr. Mkopi for lunch and he shared firsthand stories about what he has seen as a pediatrician in Africa. The two leading killers of children under age five are diarrhea and pneumonia. Together they kill one in every four children in the world, and both are preventable by vaccines.

Me meeting Dr. Mkopi in Minneapolis.

Me meeting Dr. Mkopi in Minneapolis.

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Yetebon community Ethiopia

EngenderHealth launches “Where’s the Family Planning?!” campaign

EngenderHealth works to improve access to maternal and reproductive health care in more than 20 developing countries. At the end of September, EngenderHealth launched their new campaign, WTFP?!” (Where’s the Family Planning?!) to raise awareness among Americans of global access to contraception.

Although for many Americans, access to contraceptives is relatively easy, around the world, this is not the case and there remains a huge, unmet need. In fact, over 220 million women in developing countries want contraception and family planning but lack access. There are a variety of reasons regarding why women do not have access – poverty, lack of education, lack of health care facilities, culture and religion – however it is proven that when women have access to contraception they are more likely to survive childbirth, have healthier children, and go further in their education.

Yetebon community Ethiopia

Mother holding her 9th child in rural Ethiopia. 

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Mosebo village Ethiopia

Be the Change


I’m honored that my Shot@Life post “Blogust: Reaching Firsts and Making a Difference” is live today on the United Nations Foundation’s website. Blogust is a month-long digital dialogue, bringing more than 25 of the most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life champions (me!) together to help change the world through their words and imagery throughout the month of August. For every comment and/or social media share, Walgreens will donate one life-saving vaccine to a child in need around the world.

Since Blogust began August 1, readers have made over 30,000 comments and social media shares providing over 30,000 vaccines to children around the world who need it most.  I encourage my readers to help out by checking out my post here and either commenting or sharing via social media the post. Please note that you must comment or share the post on the UN Foundation’s website (not my website thirdeyemom) for it to count for providing a vaccine.

I have written extensively about the power of life-saving vaccines to save children’s lives around the world. We know that vaccines are the most cost-effective way to save lives and we can erase some of these awful figures:

One in five children lack access to the life-saving immunizations that keep children healthy. In fact, approximately 1.5 million children in developing countries die each year of a preventable disease like pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio. Put another way, one child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine.


Here is a snippet of my post today…..

Mosebo village Ethiopia

Me with the children of Mosebo village.

#Blogust: Reaching Firsts and Making a Difference

We all remember the firsts: those monumental moments that shape your life and those around you. The moments that take your breath away. The first word. The first step. The first “I love you”. The first day of school. The first kiss. The first goodbye. Firsts that impact our journeys down the long and sinuous path of life.

For me, the most defining firsts of my life have surprisingly taken place in adulthood. The first time I looked into my soul mate’s eyes. The first time I cradled my brand new son. The first time I climbed a 18,000 foot peak. The first time I boarded a plane for a global volunteer trip alone. However, by far the most powerful first was the first time I realized that I had a voice and could use it.

I was half way around the world, hiking the Annapurna Trek in Nepal with my dad. It was the culmination of years of traveling, hiking and following my wanderlust. As I arrived at the first village, there were brilliantly colorful prayer flags swaying in the wind, the smell of burning incense and the distant bells jingling from the mule trains and Buddhist prayer wheels. I saw a woman sitting upon a stoop, shoeless and weathered from years of hard labor in the fields.

She held an old prayer book in her hand and hummed in a language I couldn’t understand. She could not have been much older than me yet our lives were worlds apart. She remained in that spot the entire day, quietly singing, smiling to the passersby and never once opening that book. Her poverty was apparent and like most Nepalese women she most likely never learned to read or write. She and her family lived without electricity, running water, toilets, education, health care or materialistic goods. Yet somehow she survived.

At that moment I wondered about fate and destiny. How could it be that this woman’s life was so incredibly different than my own? That I was there, in a tiny, rural village carrying on my back more than this woman might possibly ever have in her lifetime. I realized my own opportunities and that I had a voice. I could make a difference and even if small, I could help change the world.

I returned home a different person and from that point on, my life has been filled with life-changing firsts. My first blog post. My first international volunteer trip. My first fundraiser to build a school in Nepal. My first meeting on Capitol Hill as an advocate for Shot@Life. My first social good post. My first philanthropic blogging trip to India, and most recently my first trip as a reporting fellow to Ethiopia where I wrote about maternal and newborn health. Each and every new first has somehow worked to create a chain reaction of more firsts that together have lead me down a life changing journey I never dreamed possible. Firsts that take my breath away.

What I’ve realized throughout it all, is how simple it can be to give back and make a difference in the world. With #Blogust, you can too. A comment or a share via social media provides one vaccine to a child who needs it most. You will be part of the change and help a child fulfill their dreams and live to see their own firsts.

 To read more click here.

Remember all comments and/or social media shares must be on the UN Foundation Shot@Life’s website on my original post. These are the comments and shares that will provide a life-saving vaccine thanks to Walgreens.

You can like my post here but please place your comments on the post here.

Thank you all so much for your amazing support! I could not continue to write this blog without such fabulous readers. I truly appreciate it.

Be the change….


Remember to please comment here (not below) to provide a life-saving vaccine to a child in the developing world. Save a life. Be the change. Thank you with all my heart! Nicole


Mosebo Village Ethiopia

First Day on the Ground Learning about Maternal and Newborn Health in Ethiopia

This is a slightly modified version of a post that published first on World Moms Blog, “Field Report #Ethiopia Newborns: An Overview of Maternal, Child and Newborn Health. All the photos below are my own taken during my visits to villages and health care centers in Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in Africa with a population of 90 million people, stunned the world by achieving the Millennium Development Goal #4 of reducing the mortality rates of children under age 5 by two-thirds well ahead of the 2015 deadline. In a country in which 95% of the population lives outside of an urban center in rural, remote and hard to reach areas and a shocking 80% of women birth at home without a midwife.  Health Extension Workers (HEW) have been the key ingredient to Ethiopia’s success. However, sadly the rate of newborn survival in Ethiopia has not shown nearly as much progress.

Mosebo Village Ethiopia

Children in Mosebo Village 42 k away from Bahir Dar in Ethiopia.

As an international reporting fellow with the International Reporting Project,  I am in Ethiopia for two weeks reporting on newborn health. I am meeting with a diverse variety of people around the country such as doctors, health officials, mothers, NGOs, midwives and health extension workers to learn about Ethiopia’s maternal, newborn and child health systems, policies and strategies for improving newborn health. On Monday, we had a presentation on maternal, newborn and child health in Ethiopia given by Dr. Abeba Bekele, the Program Manager at Save the Children Ethiopia’s Saving Newborn Lives Program.

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I’m Heading to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Fellow

I have very exciting news! I am honored to announce that I will be one of nine new media journalists heading with The International Reporting Project to Ethiopia in June to report on newborn health. The announcement was made yesterday and I can hardly wait to start researching and learning all I can about Ethiopia.

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The Battle We’ve Almost Won: Eradicating Polio

Today is World Polio Day where people across the globe come together to advocate on the eradication of polio and speak of the successes we’ve made and plan for the future. We have never been so close to eradicating a disease before and have only eradicating two diseases in the history of mankind. We are at a pivotal moment in time and we are within reach of wiping this terrible, debilitating disease off the face of this planet.

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Per the World Health Organization’s article 10 Facts about Polio Eradication”  here is where we stand today in our fight against polio:

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Walgreens Get a Shot. Give a Shot.

Get a Shot. Give a Shot.

As some of you may know, I’ve been advocating for the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign since its launch in 2012. It is a fabulous program that provides immunizations to children in the developing world. Since a child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable death, immunizations are the key to saving countless lives around the world. It is a simple, cost-effective way to giving children the shot at life they deserve.

From now until October 14th, Shot@Life is partnering with US pharmacy chain Walgreens to help save children’s lives. For every flu shot or immunization you receive at a Walgreens Pharmacy, Walgreens will immunize one child with a life-saving vaccine through Shot@Life. It is a brilliant campaign and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Walgreens Get a Shot. Give a Shot.

Walgreens Get a Shot. Give a Shot ad.

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END7: One group’s mission to fight 7 neglected tropical diseases

The end of summer means back to school for millions of children around the world. Tomorrow my two children will be starting school and as a parent it is in my uttermost interest to ensure they are healthy and ready to learn.

We all understand that education is critical to improving our lives and future. Yet tragically education is not an equal opportunity for millions of children around the world. Per Education Envoy, an estimated 61 million children are shut out of primary school, an astounding number.

Indian children learning

Children in a Delhi slum are able to attend school thanks to the support of NGOs like Pratham.

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Becoming a Global Health Advocate

Today is World Tuberculosis (TB) Day. I was asked to write a post for the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life blog on how I have become inspired to be a global health advocate. Here is the post. To check it out on the Shot@Life blog, click here. 


Photo credit: World Health Organization (WHO)

Never in a million years would I have pictured myself as a global health warrior. If you had asked me two years earlier if I’d be writing, volunteering and advocating on global heath issues, I would have certainly been surprised by the question. Yet in January 2012, I was selected to attend a three-day seminar hosted by the UN Foundation to be trained on global vaccines as a Shot@Life Champion. Little did I know, this summit would change my path and start my life-long journey as a global health advocate.


Waving at the school children in rural Nepal. A trip that opened my eyes to the beauty and poverty of the world.

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The impact of the good old Sweet Potato on Global Health

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Today I am honored to be collaborating with a group of women bloggers on behalf of ONE, a non-partisan, grassroots advocacy organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable diseases, to increase awareness about world hunger.

ONE asks:

“How can it be that 40% of Africa’s children are so chronically malnourished by the age of five that they will never fully thrive, physically recover or mentally develop – and this has not improved in two decades, despite so much other development progress?



  • In 2010, 171 million children under the age of five had stunted growth (chronically malnourished)[1]
  • Every year, malnutrition causes 3.5 million child deaths – or more than one third of all deaths of children under the age of five[2]
  • More than 600,000 children die each year from vitamin A deficiency[3]
  • 2 billion people are anemic, including every second pregnant woman and an estimated 40% of school-aged children — contributing to 20% of all maternal deaths[4]
  • The economic toll of malnutrition causes the loss of 2-3% of GDP in affected countries and more than 10% of productivity over a person’s lifetime[5]

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Advocating for global health on Capital Hill


2013 Shot@Life Champions after a day of advocating on Capital Hill.

The last four days have been absolutely amazing. I was one of 100 men and women who went to our nation’s capital to learn about and advocate for global vaccines as part of the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign. It was my second time participating in the Shot@Life Summit and was such an honor to represent the people across the United States who believe strongly in the importance of providing global vaccines for children around the world.

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