28 Days of Impact: Saving Boniface

Shot At LifeBoniface was coughing and struggling to breathe and so his mother, Christina Banda, took him to the nearby clinic first thing in the morning. There she was told she needed to go to the Makion Health Center to get help. Because her husband was away at the market she knew she’d have to go by herself, on foot, carrying Boniface on her back.

The remote and hilly farming region of Salima in eastern Malawi where Christina and Boniface lived was 25 kilometers away from that health center.  It would be a long walk.

Four hours into her journey, Boniface started crying. Christina thought he was hungry, so she took him off of her back to feed him. Suddenly he stopped moving and she knew he had passed away. Boniface was only 11 months old.

Eleven months. Boniface could still be here if he’d had the pneumococcal vaccine. Christina plans to make sure her other children get the vaccine, but if she doesn’t have access to it, how do we make sure she doesn’t have to face another walk like that one?

I haven’t been in Christina’s situation. My children have had illnesses, to be sure, but not ones that were life threatening and could have been prevented. I can’t imagine being as close to the clinic as Christina was, walking all that way to make sure her sweet boy would be okay, only to have him die in her arms so close to help. There’s not a single story I can tell you of my experience with motherhood that even comes close to being similar to Christina’s. Not one.

Malawi recently added pneumococcal vaccine into its routine immunization program, but countries with more resources need to ensure they have access to the vaccine and can get it to the villages that need it. Remember that thing you did last August where you commented like crazy and helped saved the lives of TEN THOUSAND CHILDREN?! Blogust? We need to keep the pressure on, and a simple email to Congress can do just that!

Here’s a reminder of why so many of you were willing to act:

  • Vaccines are safe, simple and one of the most cost-effective ways to save and improve the lives of children worldwide.
  • Vaccines work.
  • Vaccines currently help save 2.5 million children from preventable diseases every year.
  • Vaccination efforts have already made a difference. Thanks to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the number of new cases of polio has dropped 99 percent and the Measles Initiative has vaccinated one billion children in 60 developing countries and has decreased measles deaths by 71 percent.
  • Vaccines can level the playing field so that all children, no matter their circumstances, have a shot at a healthy life.

It’s so simple. Use your voice and make an impact for another mother, one you’ll never meet but who the hell cares because she’s a mother. Shot@Life has made it easy for you — all you have to do is click here and fill out a simple form and your message will be sent to Congress lickety-split.

Shot@LifeThe impact of vaccines on the lives of children around the world is incredible. Now, you can help sustain the impact by sending an email to your member of congress. Welcome your members to the 113th Congress and ask them to make sure that global health and vaccines are a priority in the new Congress. Take action and make an impact!

This story comes from The GAVI Alliance and is part of Shot@Life’s ’28 Days of Impact’ Campaign. A follow up toBlogust to raise awareness for global vaccines and the work being done by Shot@Life and their partners to help give children around the world a shot at a healthy life. Each day in February, you can read another impactful story on global childhood vaccines. Tomorrow, don’t miss Suzanne Chan’s post! Go to www.shotatlife.org/impact to learn more.

Photo Credit: The GAVI Alliance

About Katherine Stone

is the creator of this blog, and the founder and executive director of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the 15 most influential patient advocates to follow. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. It breaks my heart to think of Christina starting on a 25 kilometer walk to bring her son to the nearest clinic and losing him before they can get there. And to think that a simple vaccine could have saved him. The pneumococcal vaccine is so important – and that it’s becoming available in more and more countries is great progress. I’m so glad you posted this, Katherine.

  2. It’s amazing how vaccines save 2.5 million children every year.

    Thanks for sharing this sobering story. Makes you realize just how important access to the vaccines is in these countries.

  3. Katherine,

    Last February, I was able to go to Malawi with the Coalition to Fight Child Pneumonia. I met woman that had walked with their children to rural health care centers to receive these important vaccines. I have witnessed the progress that is being made in this country to save lives. This story hits close to home. I have a special love for these mothers that would do anything to help their children. This child’s death was preventable, and I hope that my voice can help government officials see how important it is to help these countries around the world. Like us, they want to see their children grown up to adulthood and live a happy, healthy, whole life.

    Thank you so much for using your voice to make a difference. I support you wholeheartedly.

  4. Blown away Katherine. What a gut-wrenching story. Thank you for telling it so beautifully.

  5. What a tragic story. I don’t think I could really imagine that. So sad that children have to die like that when there is plenty of money to solve problems like these. It’s just a matter of getting to people’s hearts and getting it to the right places. I’ll be meeting next week at the Shot@Life Champions Summit and you can be sure that stories like this are going to be on my mind the whole time. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Simply. Cannot. Imagine.

  7. You can just look in Christina’s eyes and see that weary, compassionate look of a mother soldier who is driven by the pain of loss. She represents so many both near and far whose children can and must be helped. Thank you, Katherine, for telling their story.

  8. This was a heartbreaking story to read- but served as a great reminder why it’s vital for us to stand up and voice our concern for mothers and children across the world. Like Katherine said, we may never meet the people we are helping, but we are still responsible for helping them.
    “We’re connected, as women. It’s like a spiderweb. If one part of that web vibrates, if there’s trouble, we all know it, but most of the time we’re just too scared, or selfish, or insecure to help. But if we don’t help each other, who will?” ― Sarah Addison Allen, The Peach Keeper

  9. Thank you Katherine for sharing this heartbreaking story that demonstrates how crucial it is for us all to campaign for these mothers. They deserve the healthcare and preventive medicine for their children that we receive. Like Katherine stated in the blog, we may never meet this mothers who we are trying to help, but they still deserve all we can do to help prevent future deaths and tragedies. It reminds me of a quote by Sarah Addison Allen in The Peach Keeper “We’re connected, as women. It’s like a spiderweb. If one part of that web vibrates, if there’s trouble, we all know it, but most of the time we’re just too scared, or selfish, or insecure to help. But if we don’t help each other, who will?”