Rich Galen

The reason I came to Ghana was to help publicize the introduction of two vaccines to the Ghanaian heath care system a rotaviral vaccine and a pneumococcal vaccine for newborns.

These vaccines will help stave off infant diarrhea and pneumonia which kill more children under the age of five than malaria and tuberculosis combined.

A quick geography lesson: Ghana is located on the western coast of Africa, sort of:

According to the CIA World Factbook it has a population of a little over 25 million of whom nearly 70 percent are Christian. The country is slightly smaller than Oregon.

This is sub-Saharan Africa, located just eight degrees north of the equator, so it is hot just about all the time. The temps have been in the high 80's every day with a "feels like" temperature of about 104 because of the humidity. This is the beginning of the rainy season but we had only one rain storm, which was a dandy, but it passed in about an hour.

The ceremony was a big deal. The President of Ghana is in the U.S. this week, so his wife was the keynote speaker. It is apparently a Ghanaian custom, at the beginning of a speech, to recognize by name and title anyone in attendance whose title is not Mr. or Mrs. There were probably twenty such people in the crowd of several hundred; there were about a dozen speeches so the whole thing could have been shortened by a good half hour if the speakers had found some shortcut.

The vaccination effort is sponsored by the GAVI Alliance (which was formerly known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization), part of the World Health Organization and other multinational agencies based in Geneva.

The ONE Campaign, which invited me on this trip, has a project as part of its overall advocacy mission utilizing the astonishing network of "mommy bloggers" in the United States. There were three mommy bloggers (and one daddy blogger) along so the places we went were designed to be of interest to them, not to an old political hack like me.

We visited two hospitals. The first was a hospital for under- and severely mal-nourished children. Anemia is a big problem here which leads to excessive bleeding during childbirth which, in turn, leads to the death of the mother. With no one to breastfeed an infant, he or she will quickly become mal-nourished and we found aunts, cousins, and even older sisters bringing children in. The most sever cases are admitted, but the majority are weighed, measured, and fed in an outpatient clinic.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at