Among the many causes that Nelson Mandela championed, he was a powerful voice for children's rights and access to life-saving vaccines
Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013
Geneva, 6 December 2013 - Nelson Mandela was universally recognised
for his inspirational efforts to create a better world. His support for
children’s right to health and, in particular, his direct role in building
global support for GAVI’s mission, was less well known but just as far-reaching.
As the founding Chair
of the Vaccine Fund Board (GAVI’s initial financing arm), Nelson Mandela’s
vision, determination and leadership were critical in the Alliance’s early
days, helping to put the need to increase access to vaccines for hundreds of
millions of children in the world’s poorest countries at the top of the
Our primary mission is life critical. Our goal is very clear: to address the gross inequities in child health still existing in the world today. Life or death for a young child too often depends on whether he is born in a country where vaccines are available or not…
Nelson Mandela, addressing the Vaccine Fund Board 2003 meeting in Johannesburg
Nelson Mandela also
built political will around the Alliance’s early advocacy and resource mobilisation
efforts, rallying high level advocates to join the Board and raising the profile
of every child’s universal right to immunisation.
These early supporters
included Nelson Mandela’s wife Graça Machel, Her Majesty Queen Rania
Al-Abdullah of Jordan, first woman president of Ireland and United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, Russian cellist and international
advocate for human rights Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007), and Indian
economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.
During his time as
Chair of GAVI, (2001-2004), Nelson Mandela contributed to improving the health
of the poorest by:
Nelson Mandela at the 2003 Vaccine Fund Board meeting in Johannesburg
out to Heads of State in donor countries and urging them to support efforts to
extend the benefits of immunisation to every child;
foundations for the first eight donor countries to support the Vaccine Fund‘s
initial fundraising targets of GAVI: Canada, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands,
Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Sweden;
- hosting a
key meeting of the Vaccine Fund Board in Johannesburg in 2003, which included Her
Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, Mary Robinson, former co-chair and chief
executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Patty Stonesifer
and current Administrator of USAID, Raj Shah, then of the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation. This meeting also included the first visit by Board
members to a GAVI supported country, Mozambique.
In 2004, Nelson
Mandela’s wife Graça Machel took over as Chair of the Vaccine Fund Board for a
three year period, with Nelson Mandela appointed Board Chair Emeritus. In 2008,
at Nelson Mandela’s personal invitation, Mary Robinson was appointed Chair of
the GAVI Board.
Together, we all have
more work to do to achieve the world Mandela helped us dream of.