Millions of children at risk of going unimmunised

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Donors urged to increase funding for vaccines to achieve health MDGs

Geneva, 18 June 2010 - Millions of children in the world's poorest countries must be protected against diarrhoea and pneumonia with new life-saving vaccines in spite of the global economic crisis, donors to the GAVI Alliance have vowed.

"It would be unconscionable to let children die when we have effective new vaccines ready to be introduced and a delivery platform in place to reach nearly 80% of them on a routine basis," said Gustavo Gonzalez-Canali, who represents France, Germany, Luxembourg and the EC donor constituency on the GAVI Board.

Developing countries have the highest burden of disease and I greatly hope the world's donor nations will hear our call for vaccines

Guillermo Gonzalez, Nicaraguan Minister of Health

"There is a strong determination among the donor community to make good on our promises to introduce these new vaccines. It is true that all donors are feeling the pinch in these tight economic times, but the money required is not so much in the greater scheme of things and we know that immunisation is a highly cost-effective investment," he added.

Increased support

At a meeting in Geneva on Wednesday and Thursday 16-17 June, the Board agreed in principle to move forward with funding for applications from 15 developing countries and also agreed in principle to call for a new round of applications

As a consequence it confirmed that GAVI will hold its first replenishment meeting on 6 October in New York. Donors and potential donors will be invited to come with firm financial commitments to support GAVI's immunisation programmes.

The demand for the new vaccines is being driven by developing countries, many of which have made substantial investments of their own in building up their immunisation platforms and health systems and are now reaching up to 80% of children with routine immunisation with support from GAVI and its partners.

"Developing countries have the highest burden of disease and I greatly hope the world's donor nations will hear our call for vaccines that can give our children the same protection against disease as children in richer countries enjoy. This is a matter of equity," said Nicaraguan Minister of Health Guillermo Gonzalez, who represents developing country governments on the Board.

"Children have a right to health and we have it in our power to set them on a path to healthy and productive lives. There comes a time to stop talking and start doing. I sincerely hope that we will see donors put their money on the table. Without this funding for immunisation, the world will not reach Millennium Development Goal 4 to reduce under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015," said GAVI Board Chair Mary Robinson.

Funding imperative

The Board heard that GAVI needs US$ 4.3 billion between now and 2015 if it is to continue its current programmes and roll out new vaccines against pneumococcal disease and rotavirus to more than 40 countries. This figure includes an additional US$ 2.6 billion over and above current levels of funding.

If it gets the money, GAVI can help developing countries immunise more than 240 million children and prevent some four million deaths by 2015, including one million from pneumococcus and rotavirus diarrhoea, the two main causes of pneumonia and diarrhoea, respectively. GAVI's sustained support for routine childhood vaccination programmes and strong health systems is an important driver of this impact.

Civil society organisations all over the world are strong advocates for increased funding for GAVI's immunisation programmes.

"We demand that governments seize the opportunity that immunisation represents for millions of children in the developing world," said Faruque Ahmed from BRAC who represents civil society organisations on the GAVI Board. "If ever there was a time to deliver on their commitments the time is now."

"If governments really mean to achieve the MDGs, as they have committed to, we must tackle the top child killers -- pneumonia and diarrhoea," said independent GAVI Board member Dagfinn Hoybraten, a Norwegian MP. "We are reaching the moment of truth. We know the needs, we have the proof that immunisation works. Now what is needed is real leadership."

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