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UK’s £1 billion pledge on life-saving vaccines: now others must follow

Yesterday, I went to a meeting where Justine Greening MP, the International Development Secretary of State, announced that the UK Government will contribute up to £1 billion to Gavi, the global alliance promoting vaccination in low-income countries. This will mean UK money helping to save 1.4 million children’s lives.

Gavi was set up around the time of the Millennium Development Goals to try to boost use of vaccines in low-income countries. Its results are impressive, and it has a lot of support from donors because its model is tied to clear results. Every few years, it gets its donors together to raise the funds for the next strategy. The last time was in 2011 and the UK government hosted as well as contributing the largest amount.

Five-month-old son Muhsin is vaccinated at a health centre in north east Kenya.
Five-month-old son Muhsin is vaccinated at a health centre in north east Kenya.
(photo: Bert Wander/Save the Children)

Save the Children has worked hard, with others, to influence the next Gavi strategy. We’re delighted that it will prioritise those children who are hardest to reach – the fifth of all children who receive no vaccines at all. Gavi has sometimes appeared more interested in getting new vaccines added into countries’ lists rather than expanding basic vaccines to neglected communities and this is a major change.

We’re also delighted that the new strategy wants to help build comprehensive health services. Ebola proves that work on a particular topic has a duty to help build comprehensive health services, ones that can tackle any problem, not just what the international donor community is interested in. Gavi should have results that are beyond just immunisation coverage.

The UK played a key role in setting up Gavi, especially in creating innovative financing methods which have provided a lot of Gavi’s funding. Although charities, including Save the Children, collectively asked for £1.2 billion from the UK, this announcement means the UK will almost definitely continue to be the largest funder of Gavi.

Justine Greening said that she intends the UK contribution to be no more than 26% of the total raised when the replenishment ends in a meeting in Germany on 27 January 2015. This puts pressure on many other governments that give less than their economies suggest they could (see my colleague Luisa Hanna’s blog discussing the difficulties of working out fair shares).

Act now

You can help us with this by tweeting the German Chancellor’s spokesman now to ensure she pressurises all donors to live up to the UK’s generosity.


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