With proper funding, vaccines can ensure that no child dies from a preventable illness

We have made substantial gains in reducing preventable child deaths, but the UK must do more to encourage other countries to invest.

We have made substantial gains in reducing preventable child deaths, but the UK must do more to encourage other countries to invest

Last week Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for International Development, pledged £1bn to support global immunisations over the next five years.

This money will go some way to reaching the one in five children around the world who do not have access to vaccines.

These children are extremely vulnerable. Some of them live in remote communities which are cut off from roads and services, and others are children from migrant communities who find they arrive in a new village just after the vaccine man has left.

If governments are to heed the message to ‘leave no child behind’, then world leaders have to get serious about reaching all of these children and ensure that they are immunised from life threatening diseases.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, helps the world’s poorest countries to buy lifesaving vaccinations. To date their biggest donor is the UK government, closely followed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, known for their wise philanthropic investments.

As they are one of the cheapest and most effective ways to reduce preventable child deaths, it makes sense to invest in vaccines.

The UK has been at the forefront of global immunisations since Edward Jenner discovered the first vaccination for small pox in 1778. 233 years later David Cameron hosted the last replenishment conference to finance Gavi’s work between 2011 and 2015.

It was at this conference that Cameron made his famous promise not to ‘balance the books on the backs of the world’s poorest people’. Today’s announcement goes some way to continuing that legacy, but it is only the first step in a long process leading up to the next replenishment conference in Berlin next January.

Between now and January, the UK must put all of its efforts into encouraging other countries around the world to contribute to Gavi.

Some countries will be contributing for the first time; others need to double, or even triple their previous contributions. Signs from the Canadian government are encouraging; this week the government pledged CAD $500m, a significant increase on their previous commitment.

We are now at a turning point in global health, having made some substantial gains in reducing preventable child deaths. A fully-financed Gavi will expand access and reach the most vulnerable children.

In fact, over the next five years Gavi expects to vaccinate an additional 400 million children, and save five – six million lives. Ten per cent of its budget will be committed to strengthening countries’ health systems, an investment that the ongoing Ebola crisis has shown us the need for.

£1bn will save 1.4m million lives. That’s a good first step, but we should not lose sight of the fact that there remain millions of people who risk dying from easily preventable diseases.

Lorriann Robinson is UK Policy and Advocacy manager at The ONE Campaign. Follow her on Twitter

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