Boosting Childhood Vaccination in French-speaking Africa through Champions’ Advocacy

Boosting Childhood Vaccination in French-speaking Africa through Champions’ Advocacy

Boosting Childhood Vaccination in French-speaking Africa through Champions’ Advocacy

Project Background

During the OAFRESS 2021 General Assembly meeting, the persistence of low childhood vaccination rates throughout the region was repeatedly brought up as a major global problem, in spite of the fact that significantly increased worldwide efforts to secure enough resources for vaccination in general were being deployed, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The OAFRESS General Assembly concluded that it was not necessarily the physical means and technology that were in short supply in their constituent countries, but rather the link between efficient information and outreach to hard-to-reach, isolated population groups and resistance amongst certain poorly informed population groups against childhood – and all other – vaccinations. As a follow-up, 21 Advocacy “Champions” were recruited within the individual OAFRESS country platforms. Their objective was to perform multiple tasks that could help to surmount societal factors that stood in the way of ensuring that the maximum number of children were fully vaccinated.


In November 2021, PTF started to partner with OAFRESS in implementing a new, experimental program of mentoring OAFRESS Advocacy Champions, to contribute to an increase in the proportion of children in their respective countries who are vaccinated according to WHO criteria and in line with the immunization schedule of their respective countries. The partnership continues up to the present, and evolves on a regular basis, illustrating the increase in the Champions’ capacity to build up programs in the OAFRESS countries that respond most efficiently to the needs of the target populations. Although Champions are generally not directly involved in the administration of vaccines, they provide a bridge between the government’s health services and isolated, poorly informed and vaccine resistant populations in their own countries and regions.

Project Objectives

The overall goal of the project is to mentor OAFRESS Advocacy Champions, to contribute to an increase of the proportion of children in their respective countries who are vaccinated according to WHO criteria and in line with the immunization schedule of their respective countries.

Specifically, the Champions’ objectives are:

  • 1. Informing target populations about the importance of having as many children as possible vaccinated to prevent serious childhood diseases, and epidemics, and strengthening their chances of surviving serious childhood diseases;
  • 2. Making  the immunization process more transparent and accessible to target communities, especially in remote areas of their countries;
  • 3. Making the collaboration between the public health service and local health NGOs more transparent  and accountable to local populations;
  • 4. Advocating for the reservation of increased monetary resources within the national budgets of OAFRESS member countries; and
  • 5. Recording, analyzing, disseminating and multiplying results of the Champions’ advocacy work at the local, regional, national and international levels.

Champions' Activities

1. Systematic collaboration between Public Health Services and CSOs/NGOs

One first lesson learned from our experience so far is that a logical division of labor between government health services and NGOs has emerged in most OAFRESS countries. While public health services continue to administer the vaccines, OAFRESS advocacy Champions serve as a liaison between these vaccination services and the target group of hard-to-reach rural communities, families and children eligible for vaccinations. In many countries this division of labor has been codified in legally binding working documents between government services and NGOs. In addition, most countries are implementing regular multi-stakeholder working meetings to prepare outreach to hard-to-reach audiences and to monitor results and to experiment with optimal outreach strategies, using innovative stakeholder analysis and engagement strategies. Examples of these collaborative relationships were presented by a group of Champions during the OAFRESS ConneXion Conference in July 2022 in Niamey, Niger. Furthermore, on the occasion of the last week of April 2024 (International Vaccination Week) Champions from Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire organized a very well attended  international Zoom meeting (82 participants mostly from West Africa) to present their detailed case studies of collaboration between the public health service and local NGOs in their respective countries.

2. Champions are Making Public Health Services Accountable to Local Communities

The Champions, by being generally close to remote populations, are particularly well-placed to understand the social dynamics of communities and to strengthen good governance and transparency of public services for immunizing children. As a result, they are able to remove often encountered obstacles to vaccination.

2.1. Champions help to overcome a lack of clear information.

The Champions are generally working in their regions of origin. Hence they know the local context, the local language and culture and the community leaders, and are accepted as being “from here”. For that reason, they are often much better able to overcome societal obstacles, than a “stranger” – even someone from the same country – would be able to do.

2.2 Champions help to overcome vaccine resistance.

They are informed about the process of vaccination, and receive first-hand information from the public health service. Thus they are able to subtly convince the local community of the need, the date, the place and the location of the target group to get children vaccinated, and usually to overwin the vaccine resistance and reject fables about the dangers of vaccines that are circulating in the community.

2.3. Champions help to find solutions by bringing all partners together

Most importantly, in collaboration with all the different stakeholder groups, they are able to find solutions to identified shortcomings and to ensure that the target groups have “a voice” in the process, thus involving them in the smooth running of the vaccination process, thereby minimizing mismanagement and waste and ascertaining the health service’s accountability to the target population.

2.4. Advocates for allocating monetary resources for vaccination in the national budget 

This year we witnessed an interesting phenomenon of South-South learning across the OAFRESS network, when Champions from various other OAFRESS countries, who received special training on the subject, conducted successful tours to advocate for setting aside additional financial resources for vaccination in their respective countries. Thus, thanks to the relentless dedication of the Champions and their initiatives across the entire network, the vaccination budgets in OAFRESS countries may be significantly increased.

Learn more here: Boosting Childhood Vaccination in French-speaking Africa through Champions’ Advocacy

About Our Partner

OAFRESS (the Francophone African Organization for the Strengthening of Health Systems and Immunization) is composed of 18 country platforms of CSOs focused on addressing concrete healthcare challenges at the grassroots level, notably working to strengthen health systems, immunization, and vaccination in the French-speaking countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Founded in 2011, it is headquartered in Dakar and includes CSOs from Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea Conakry, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo, and the Comoros Islands. It plays an important role in policy development, and in the implementation and evaluation of healthcare programs in these countries, notably focused on improving access to vaccines and healthcare services at the grassroots level.

Project Team

Claire Sambou

OAFRESS Regional Program Coordinator

Dr. Clarisse Loumou


Pietronella van den Oever

Program Coordinator, PTF

Adriana de Leva

Deputy Program Coordinator, PTF

Jean-Louis Sarbib

Principal Technical Advisor, PTF

Hasan Tuluy

Principal Technical Advisor, PTF

Denise Vaillancourt

Technical Advisor (Planning and M&E), PTF

Peter Bachrach

Technical Advisor (Planning and M&E), PTF

Emmanuel Noubissie

Communications and Outreach, PTF

Banke Aluko

Communications and Outreach, PTF

Aileen Marshall

Liaison Officer with OAFRESS, PTF

Jonas Mbwangue

Networking and Advisor-at-Large, PTF

Project Pictures

Social Media