Former Tanzanian President delivers keynote address to ‘Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa’
Global ambassador for immunisation and former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete delivers opening address to the 'Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa’.
Addis Ababa, 24 February 2016 – Global Ambassador for immunisation and former President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete has called on African leaders to close the continent’s immunisation gap.
Delivering the opening address to the ‘Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa’ on Wednesday, President Kikwete reminded a packed audience of ministers, global health leaders and civil society organisations that one in five African children still do not receive the most basic vaccines.
“We should settle for nothing less than a continent where no child dies from preventable diseases,” said President Kikwete. “We should seek ways and means to close forever the outstanding gaps in immunisation that still leave our children vulnerable to preventable diseases.”
This conference should live up to its reputation as a game changer.
Jakaya Kikwete, Global Ambassador for immunisation
Universal immunisation coverage
Entitled ‘Toward Universal Immunization Coverage as a Cornerstone for Health and Development in Africa’, 24-25 February conference is hosted by WHO and the African Union. Over the next two days, some 700 attendees will join sessions on sustainable financing for immunisation, the role of communities in increasing coverage and leveraging regional partnerships to help reach every child with life-saving vaccines.
“We look to this Ministerial Conference to come up with pertinent proposals and ideas on how to achieve access to immunisation for every child, everywhere, regardless of gender or social and financial status of their families,” said Kikwete.
Government leadership key
Pointing out that only 15 African countries are currently self-funding at least 50 percent of their national immunisation programmes, Kikwete questioned whether African countries are doing enough to achieve universal access.
“To achieve sustainable universal immunisation coverage in Africa, national ownership and government leadership is key. We can only achieve this goal if every government will … diligently work towards achieving universal access,” said the former President.
Tanzania’s impressive record
Appointed a Global Ambassador for immunisation in January, President Kikwete is advocating for heads of state across African to match his own country’s impressive record on immunisation. Under Kikwete’s leadership, the number of vaccines available through Tanzania’s national immunisation programme almost doubled from six to 11 in the period 2000-2014.
“During my Presidency I made immunisation one of my top agenda items. By virtue of doing that, it became every political leader’s agenda and not only that of the Minister of Health,” Kikwete told the Conference.
“Tanzania was able to meet Millennium Development Goal number 4 on reducing child mortality, thanks in many ways to the successes we made in immunisation coverage.”
Kikwete also emphasised the important role of bilateral and multilateral partners like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in achieving universal immunisation. “Attaining universal immunisation in Africa is a global responsibility and not that of African countries alone,” he said.
“I have no doubt that universal immunisation is doable and achievable in Africa. The lives of hundreds of thousands of our children and their mothers and fathers who die every year will be saved.”