Geneva, 8 July 2008 - Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. But, in spite of years of civil unrest and poor infrastructure, its commitment to immunisation has been consistently high.
Burundi's DTP3 immunisation coverage increased from 54 per cent in 2001 to 93 per cent in 2006, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures.
DTP3, coverage with three doses of DTP (diphtheria toxoid, tetanus toxoid and pertussis vaccine), is generally used as a proxy for a fully immunised child.
Since 2001, the GAVI Alliance has disbursed a total of US$ 24 million to support Burundi's immunisation efforts, US$ 18 million of which arrived in the form of vaccines.
Meeting in Geneva last month, the GAVI Alliance Board welcomed a commitment by the Government of Burundi to reimburse US $1.4 million allegedly embezzled in 2007 by a former government minister from an account intended to pay for immunisation services.
The Board heard that the GAVI Alliance was made fully aware of this case by the Government of Burundi on 23 May 2008 prompting a high-level mission to Burundi on 17 June 2008 led by the GAVI Alliance Secretariat. The mission was able to confirm that Government of Burundi had already reimbursed US$ 400,000 and had pledged to reimburse the remaining USD 1,000,000 by 31 March 2009.
The GAVI Alliance Board reviewed the case on June 26 and agreed to continue to support Burundi's efforts to strengthen its capacity to immunise its population against disease. To do so, GAVI will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Burundi confirming the Government's intention to fully replace the missing funds into the immunisation account and agreeing to a stronger role for GAVI's partners based in Burundi with regard to channeling and monitoring future transfers of funds to the government.
"We take such cases extremely seriously and thank the Government of Burundi for bringing it to our attention," said Julian Lob-Levyt, Executive-Secretary of the GAVI Alliance. "We look forward to working with our partners and the Government of Burundi to help develop stronger financial management systems and fiduciary controls."