Australia joins 15 nations in combating vaccine preventable childhood disease

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Minister for Foreign Affairs announced the first Australian contribution to the GAVI Alliance global immunisation programmes

Geneva, 11 August 2006 - This week, Australia becomes the 16th public donor (including the European Commission) contributing to GAVI's life saving mission of preventing the spread of deadly diseases in the world's poorest countries. As it launches a new overseas aid health policy, the Australian Government is committing to a US$ 20 million contribution to the GAVI Alliance over the next 4 years.

"We are grateful for Australia's commitment to GAVI. It signals growing momentum behind GAVI's work. This is the first contribution from the Asia Pacific region" noted Dr Julian Lob-Levyt, Executive Secretary of the GAVI Alliance. "This is a significant step forward to address critical health issues in some of the poorest countries of the world - including in this region. It illustrates promising efforts to help reach the Millennium Development Goals for child survival."

GAVI's efforts are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goal on child health, which calls for reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds by 2015. Since 2001, the GAVI Alliance has supported the immunisation of 115 million children with new generation vaccines. The number of children reached with GAVI support with these vaccines-against deadly diseases such as hepatitis B and yellow fever-is expected to climb to 225 million by 2008, according to the World Health Organization.

"Key to this success has been GAVI's approach," said Lob-Levyt. "It rewards results, but also enables partner nations to develop their own long term plans for reaching their immunisation goals." In order to address broader health issues, the GAVI Alliance has recently opened a new Health System Support window, aiming at strengthening the policy, planning and management of health systems, and for improving the training of health workers. "On top of health systems strengthening, GAVI is in the process of working with donor partners to develop new financing instruments. Those will accelerate significantly the availability of new and additional development funding and the introduction of new vaccines for global health improvement and immunisation" added Dr Lob-Levyt. Among those innovative financing instruments is the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) that will use pledges of future aid to leverage money from international capital markets for immediate use.

In line with GAVI's goal of breaking the cycle of poverty and disease, Australia's new overseas aid health policy: "Helping Health Systems Deliver" underlies the country's commitment to increase health expenditure and prevent the death and illness of millions of people. "Investing in health has some of the highest returns of any development assistance - in both human and economic terms" stated Alexander Downer, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs.

But even with the increased amounts of funding devoted to immunisation the need remains pressing; of the more than 10 million children who die before reaching their fifth birthday every year, 2.5 million die from diseases that could be prevented with currently available or new vaccines. New sources of funding are crucial to continue reducing the death toll. Innovative funding mechanisms such as the IFFIm are needed in order to cover the costs of developing and delivering new vaccines in the pipeline -- such as the vaccine against cervical cancer, or pneumonia, or diarrhea.

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The GAVI Alliance
An alliance of all the major stakeholders in immunisation, the GAVI Alliance includes among its partners developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialised and developing countries, research and technical agencies, NGOs, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is estimated that more than 1.7 million early deaths will have been prevented as a result of support by GAVI up to the end of 2005.

GAVI's efforts are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goal on child health, which calls for reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds by 2015. Of the more than 10 million children who die before reaching their fifth birthday every year, 2.5 million die from diseases that could be prevented with currently available or new vaccines.

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