Dr. Clarisse Loumou Loe, Pediatrician, Vice President of Alternative Santé Cameroon, and civil society representative at the Gavi Programme and Policy Committee.
Concerns about the sustainability of immunisation programmes in sub-Saharan Africa are becoming increasingly vocal in international fora and at the country level. Sadly, there are still many children who are un- or not-fully immunised, development aid resources are decreasing, and many countries are not keeping up with their financial commitments for the implementation of immunisation programmes, despite the fact that many of these countries will soon be graduating from Gavi support. It is therefore urgent and imperative to take action and to encourage all immunisation stakeholders in our countries to join forces and make a difference.
It was with these concerns in mind that, just prior to the November’s Congress of African Pediatrics Societies and Associations, I reached out to the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in Cameroon to suggest that all key in-country immunisation partners get together and sit around the same table. From those conducting needs assessments and planning to those administrating vaccines in the most remote areas, all partners need to be involved. As Cameroon’s Ministry of Health and Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) took the lead, parliamentarians (who have been working for the last three years on a bill for sustainable immunisation financing) pediatricians, members of the civil society, and the EPI focal points for the Ministry of Finance and Economy all gathered to discuss the country’s immunisation challenges and reflect together on solutions to address them.
Photo: Billie-Jean Nieuwenhuys, PATH
The open dialogue between parliamentarians and representatives from government ministries enabled a better understanding of the reason why the current draft immunisation bill may struggle to be adopted and to achieve its goal, which is namely to institutionalise an immunisation budget line. I also particularly appreciated the direct dialogue between civil society representatives, pediatricians, and parliamentarians involved in vaccine advocacy—a first!
“The good news is that the partners are not opponents but can, and must, use all their allocated talking time and action to advance what is ultimately a common cause," remarked Inspector General of the Ministry of Health and representive of the Minister Ms. Loudang, who moderated the session brilliantly, tempering with humor some of the fiery exchanges from civil society representatives.
The Honorable KOMBA, Parliamentary Leader in charge of the health issues, and AMOUGOU, former Member of Parliament who continues to work tirelessly for the sustainability of health programmes, suggested that participants endorse a Declaration of commitment to seal their collaboration.
Overall this commitment taken by participants is an excellent sign for the future of immunisation in Cameroon, and I am very proud to be part of it!
Children celebrating vaccines at a ceremony at a Cameroonian health clinic. Photo: Duncan Graham Rowe/Gavi.