Senior Immunization Technical Advisor, Bureau for Global Health, Office of the Assistant Administrator
Growing up in a rural village in Kenya, Joyce Muriithi remembers large trucks plastered with the USAID logo carrying food and supplies to famine-stricken northern Kenya and beyond. While working as a schoolteacher, a board member told her about a program to assist with the cost of completing her master’s degree, a moment in which she says, “my life changed forever.”
Joyce, a senior immunization technical advisor with the Bureau for Global Health’s COVID-19 Response Team through GHTASC, found herself working for International Rescue Committee in a refugee camp in Kenya, managing the nutrition and feeding center with the familiar USAID-labeled trucks delivering building materials, food, and medical supplies. She was driven to support the vaccination program for children at the camp, having witnessed first-hand vaccinations saving lives. “This is where my journey with vaccines began. I was a beneficiary of immunoglobulin boosters when going to the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Now I have worked and lived in areas with malaria, yellow fever, and many other infectious diseases, including Ebola, with less fear because of my confidence in vaccines. I know they work,” Joyce explains.
Shortly after moving to the United States, COVID-19 struck the world and Joyce felt further called to action, initially volunteering on a phone line to encourage mask-wearing, and eventually supporting the vaccination movement directly by volunteering with Maryland Medical Corps. Joyce notes that she became “a diehard advocate for vaccines. I had evidence and experience, I worked, and I lived it.” But her family and friends back home in Kenya did not have ready access to the same vaccines. After a chance meeting with the CEO of a faith-based organization looking to support the vaccination effort in Kenya, Joyce committed her time to providing pro-bono guidance, resulting in the campaign being rolled out across six counties.
After learning about USAID’s different hiring mechanisms, Joyce found herself supporting the
COVID-19 Response Team at the Bureau for Global Health, transitioning to Team Credence through GHTASC. “Thank you for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime—to serve and save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. My leadership and great team members mentored me, worked with me, and valued my advice and input,” Joyce said. “The synergy and solidarity are something to be proud of. Every team member is supportive and working towards the same goal. They bring a wealth of expertise and experience.“
Joyce is proud of the work her team has accomplished but recognizes that there is much left to do. “The battle is only halfway fought. COVID-19 needs to be integrated into other health systems and ensure that the world USAID has supported on behalf of the American people remains safe from future pandemics by remaining prepared to detect, prevent, and respond. Global health is not rhetoric. It is practical and it produces tangible results.”