Ewan McGregor

Ewan McGregor is on a mission with UNICEF to deliver vaccines and immunise children in some of the world's remotest places.

After India and Nepal, Ewan’s second cold chain mission is in the Republic of Congo.

His journey starts in the capital, Brazzaville, and will take him hundreds of miles along the Ubangi river to the tiny village of Losso.

Cissoko’s story

Flight to Impfondo

Fighting polio in Congo

Ubangi Ness Monster

Gilet’s story

Deborah’s story

Bantus and Autochthons

Lingala lingo

Reaching every child

Disala and Kadiga

Gilbert’s story

end

It’s the end of Ewan’s journey on the cold chain.

“There's nowhere more remote than this part of the Congo,” Ewan says. “If we can reach children here, there's no reason we can’t reach them all."

Right now, UNICEF is responsible for vaccinating more than half the world’s children.

But our work is only possible with your support.

Find our more about our immunisation work.

Follow Ewan’s first journey in India and Nepal.

Interactive map - Ewan McGregor: Cold Chain Mission Explore exclusive behind the scenes content from Ewan McGregor’s trip with UNICEF to deliver vaccines to children in the world’s remotest locations. The journey has been made into a two-part documentary to be broadcast on BBC2, Sunday 22nd and 29th April.

Starting the chain

The start of every cold chain begins in the freezer.

This freezer room in Brazzaville contains vaccines for the whole of Congo.

There are thousands of vaccines here, from measles and tetanus to diphtheria and yellow fever.

Ewan is packing vaccines for the long trip to Losso.

A cold-box vaccine carrier costs only £8 and can get vaccines to the children who need them, whatever the weather.

Cissoko’s story

Ewan’s first stop is the Poto Poto health centre in Brazzaville.

Nine-month-old Cissoko is receiving his polio vaccine.

It’s a huge relief for Cissoko’s mum. “I can’t rest when my child is sick,” she says. “Vaccination is good for children.”

Cissoko has also had his measles and yellow fever vaccinations at Poto Poto.

Right now, more than 4,000 children die every day from diseases that could be prevented by a simple vaccination.

You can gift 100 polio vaccinations through our shop.

Flight to Impfondo

The town of Impfondo is 450 miles away from Brazzaville, a four-hour flight.

Getting vaccines to Impfondo can be difficult because there aren’t many flights available, and the planes often break down.

To make sure that health workers never run out of vaccines, spare batches are sent to Impfondo as a backup.

That way, no child has to miss out on being immunised.

Fighting polio in Congo

At Impfondo hospital, Ewan meets the immunisation team before they take the boat to Losso.

Vaccinations are important to the Congolese.

Congo was polio-free between 2000 and 2008, but a short outbreak in 2010 caused over 200 deaths.

These rare outbreaks show the importance of vaccinations.

If children and families are vaccinated, they are protected.

Find out more about our work in Congo.

Ubangi Ness Monster

UNICEF’s job is to immunise every child, no matter how hard to reach they are.

The small village of Losso is hundreds of miles up the Ubangi river, through dense rainforest.

There are stories about a giant sea creature along the Ubangi river, a kind of Congolese Loch Ness Monster. It’s known as the Mokele-mbembe.

“Most of the forest is uncharted,” Ewan says. “It’s not hard to imagine a prehistoric creature hiding in here.”

Gilet’s story

In Losso, Ewan gets to know four-month-old Gilet, who’s being vaccinated for polio and measles.

Gilet’s mum, Maloko, is a cassava farmer in Losso. She heard about the vaccinations from the village chief. 

“I am very happy he has been vaccinated,” she says. “I want him to be healthy and I want him to go to school.”

Deborah’s story

This is Deborah. She’s three years old.

Deborah had measles recently and almost died. Now her mum makes sure she gets every vaccination she needs.

It’s a three-day canoe ride from Losso to the nearest hospital, so it’s important to keep these children safe.

Read Deborah’s story.

Bantus and Autochthons

In Losso, Ewan experiences the sharp divide between the local Bantu tribe and the indigenous “autochthon” people.

Sometimes authochon families are considered to be the property of Bantu families, and sent to work – almost as if they were slaves.

UNICEF is working with the Congolese government to promote indigenous rights.

We want to make sure that every child, whether Bantu or autochthon, gets access to healthcare and education.

"Vaccinating children is not the answer to every problem in the Congo, but it's the first step,” says Ewan.

Reaching every child

The river dries up for several months every year, making it difficult to reach some villages by boat.

On every vaccination trip, local messengers are sent deep into the forest.

They spread the word about the vaccination days happening in larger villages, and let parents know how to find them.

In this photo, Ewan’s following the route of a typical vaccine messenger.

Disala and Kadiga

Deep in the forest, Disala and Kadiga have brought their children to be vaccinated.

They’re relieved and proud to protect their family from deadly diseases like measles, especially as they live so far from a hospital.

These children are part of the Baka tribe, one of Congo's indigenous hunter-and-gatherer communities. They often live in very remote areas.

For Baka families, mobile vaccination teams can be life-savers.

Gilbert’s story

At a refugee settlement by the Ubangi river, five-month-old Gilbert is getting his vaccinations.

Gilbert and his family are refugees from the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The settlement is close to the border between the two countries.

Despite his young age, his mother Valerie already has big plans for him. “I want my boy to be a nurse or doctor,” she says proudly.

Getting him protected from disease is just the first step.

Lingala lingo

In this area, most people speak French and a Bantu language called Lingala.

Why not try your hand at some of the local lingo?

Mbote! - Hello!

Boni, combo na ngai ezali Ewan - How are you? My name is Ewan

Matondo mini - Thank you very much

Ma maa Los Angeles mbe Scotland buschhoo - I live in Los Angeles and Scotland

Your country is very beautiful, my friend - Mboko na biso ezali kitoko, mooning na ngai

All photos © UNICEF/2011/Modola

In the second part of his BBC documentary, Ewan McGregor: Cold Chain Mission, Ewan traveled with UNICEF to Losso, a remote village on the Congo river.

UNICEF is the world's largest distributor of vaccines to the developing world, supplying vaccines for more than half the world's children in over 190 countries.

Check out behind-the-scenes photos from episode one in India and Nepal.

Read more about UNICEF's work on immunisation.