International development back in the news – where it belongs

Jim Dobbin MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Global Action Against Childhood Pneumonia, rounds up the latest news on international development.

Jim Dobbin MP (Labour, Heywood and Middleton) is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Global Action Against Childhood Pneumonia (APPGGAACP)

International Development funding has been top of the political agenda over the past few weeks, which is where it belongs. Terrific progress has been made in reducing childhood mortality deaths in the developing world over the last year and there has been yet more good news this week.

Two of the leading global pharmaceutical companies, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, have pledged to reduce the price of their life-saving rotavirus (one of the leading causes of diarrhoea) vaccines, making them more affordable in developing countries.

Also a number of developing world drug companies have pledged to dramatically reduce the prices of their pentavalent vaccine, which protects against Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) disease; Diphtheria; Pertussis; Tetanus and Hepatitis-B, all major killers in the developing world.

For years the international development community has been pushing and working for pharmaceutical companies to reduce their prices and these announcements highlight that the hard work is paying off.

The two vaccines mentioned above can help to drastically reduce the levels of childhood mortality by protecting against diarrhoea and pneumonia, which together account for nearly 40 per cent of all under-5 child deaths:

The recent high profile coverage around the work of the GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations) Alliance; the UK’s commitment to immunisation programmes in the developing world and the global effort to reduce childhood mortality highlights the rightful acceptance amongst the majority of politicians and stakeholders of the necessity of international development.

But there is still a disconcerting minority of international development sceptics.

A few weeks ago a leaked memo from Liam Fox, Secretary of State for Defence, suggested that too much was being spent on overseas aid. This view has been shared by a number of Conservative MPs, who have voiced their disquiet in response to international development secretary Andrew Mitchell’s comments suggesting the UK should be proud of our development contribution, at a foreign policy conference in London.

The benefits and success of overseas aid should now be accepted across the political spectrum and certainly members of The APPG for Global Action Against Childhood Pneumonia from all parties have worked in the UK and across the world over the last four years to encourage greater investment in vaccines and health system strengthening.

The results are clear to see, the GAVI Alliance alone has saved an estimated 5 million children’s lives since being established 10 years ago, a staggering contribution. What is clear is that without this essential investment and support, development economically, socially and culturally in many countries is almost impossible.

Therefore international development should remain a high-profile issue, but it is time for the sceptics to acknowledge the short and long-term benefits of overseas aid, which the UK’s commitment to immunisation programmes in the developing world have clearly shown. The evidence is clear to see, they just need to open their eyes.

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