Megan Wilson-Jones, Health Advocacy Officer at RESULTS UK comments on the UK’s commitment to GAVI

Today, the ACTION global health advocacy partnership released a ‘Donor Immunization Record’ to track whether donors are delivering on their commitments to the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership working to increase access to immunizations in developing countries.

GAVI score cardVaccines have long been considered one of the most cost-effective interventions to improve health around the world and are vital to ending preventable child deaths. The majority of deaths in children under-5 are caused by conditions which are easily prevented by vaccines. Immunizations have been central to controlling many childhood diseases over the decades, including polio and smallpox. Newer vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhoea, the two leading causes of death in children, are proving highly effective and coverage is increasing in developing countries. The GAVI Alliance has been instrumental in scaling-up both basic and new vaccines for the world’s poorest children, as well as reducing the time it takes for new vaccines to reach children in developing countries.

In June 2011, the world pledged an additional $US 4.3 billion to GAVI, which enabled GAVI to commit to averting 4 million deaths by 2015 and immunize almost a quarter billion children between 2011 and 2015. The donor immunization record examines whether the 17 donors providing nearly 80% of GAVI’s current funding are delivering on their pledges and have pledged support until 2015. The infographic summarise progress of donors around the world.

The accountability tool shows the UK is on track to deliver on its commitments of £814 million pledged in 2011 and is one of a few donors to have pledged funds through to 2015, an indicator of long-term support. In total, UK pledges are helping to vaccinate more than 80 million children and save the lives of over 1.4 million children between 2011 and 2015.

“Since June 2011 I’ve proudly been saying that the UK taxpayer is preventing one death every two minutes thanks to our investment in the GAVI Alliance,” said Aaron Oxley, Executive Director of RESULTS UK, a partner of ACTION. “These results confirm that GAVI is right on track and is saving lives.”

In contrast to the impressive leadership of the UK, key donors such as the US, Germany and France are still ‘in progress’ to deliver their pledges. Sustained advocacy is now critical to ensure these pledges are translated into financing for GAVI in order to support developing countries to increase access to these life-saving vaccines.

However the job is far from complete. 22 million children, or 1 in 5, still do not receive even the most basic vaccines. These are also the children who need them most – those living in extreme poverty and unable to access health services. Predictable, long-term funding is central to the work of GAVI, allowing countries to develop and implement national immunization programmes in order to reach every child, but also to predict the amount of vaccines that will be purchased and combining these large purchases to secure the lowest prices. This in turn will mean that a greater number of children can be vaccinated for the same money.

Immunizations represent one element of a broader strategy to reduce child mortality. Greater efforts are needed to ensure immunization is integrated into a comprehensive child health strategy, which includes scaling-up prevention interventions, including those which address malnutrition and lack of access to water and sanitation, but also to increase access to life-saving treatments for those children who do fall ill. We applaud the UK’s leadership role in GAVI , however until no child dies of a preventable illness there is still more work to be done. We need to work together and urge other donors to step up in order to ensure that every child has a chance at life.