As a professional footballer, I’ve been privileged to have this career and do what I love. But when I think about what got me here, I think of my family, my school, my village – and my mother, who kept me safe. She was able to do this through routine vaccination, which is something that 18.7 million infants worldwide still miss out on. Unfortunately there are mothers who aren’t able to keep their babies safe – through many barriers, including lack of access or information.
The most critical thing one could do is to vaccinate. Some people are too far a health center or don’t recognize the importance of keeping their children’s vaccination cards up to date. This is what keeps me up at night.
I’ve had 69 career goals, but the most important shot were those that kept me healthy. Without immunization, I couldn’t have made those goals. Vaccination is one of the cheapest ways to help your children grow into healthy adults. There is no excuse for children to die from vaccine-preventable diseases, yet one in five African children do not receive routine and basic vaccines.
I want all children to have the same start that I had to have a chance to end up being…whatever they want to be.
I understand the benefit of immunization, and so does Special Olympics International. They promote inclusion and community, where every single person is accepted and welcomed, regardless of ability or disability. With them, I’m proud to support Afrivac’s Gala Match on Saturday, December 17th. Through their Foundation, they work to ensure children will continue to have access to immunization after Gavi support goes away.
I’m El Hadj Diouf, and I want every child to have their chance. #EveryShotCount