Geneva, 3 June 2009 - The United States will donate $75 million to the GAVI Alliance's immunisation initiative to protect children in the world's poorest countries with new and under-used vaccines - its largest annual contribution to date.
Addressing GAVI Alliance Board members who are meeting in Washington D.C., Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew and Representative Betty McCollum reaffirmed their country's commitment to GAVI, a public-private partnership of major stakeholders in immunisation and health system support.
The United States is a proud member of this Alliance and will continue to support its work to ensure that children in the poorest countries have the same access to lifesaving vaccines as children in our country.
Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew
"I am delighted to announce this US$75 million contribution - the highest ever U.S. annual contribution to GAVI," said Deputy Secretary Lew.
"The Obama administration is keenly aware that immunisation is one of the most cost-effective investments we can make to protect the health of families everywhere. By working together to increase access to immunisation, GAVI Alliance members are safeguarding the lives of the world's poorest, most vulnerable children.
"The United States is a proud member of this Alliance and will continue to support its work to ensure that children in the poorest countries have the same access to lifesaving vaccines as children in our country," he added.
The GAVI Alliance Board together with Her Royal Highness La Infanta Doña Cristina of Spain, who was a guest at the meeting, welcomed the U.S. contribution; Board members include health ministers from developing countries as well as representatives of civil society organisations and donor countries.
The United States has been an active member of the GAVI Alliance and a donor each year since its inception in 2000 contributing a total of US$ 569 million.
"GAVI is saving lives - over 3 million child deaths have been prevented in the past nine years. Relying on sound science, GAVI and its partners including the United States, UNICEF and the World Bank will uphold our shared responsibility to protect the world's poorest children from the most preventable illnesses," said Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-4).
GAVI is also supported by 15 other governments and the European Commission, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the La Caixa Foundation and private philanthropists. This support has helped GAVI to avert 3.4 million deaths through its immunisation programmes, according to the World Health Organization.
"When GAVI was created in 2000, immunisation coverage rates were dropping across the developing world," explained GAVI Alliance Board Chair Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland.
"Since that time immunisation coverage in the 72 GAVI countries has risen from about 65 percent to almost 80 percent. This progress was possible because of the sustained efforts of alliance members in these countries."
Despite this progress, Mrs. Robinson stated, more needs to be done to protect young lives.
Approximately 9.2 million children under five die each year, 25,000 a day, a quarter of whom die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Approximately 2.5 million premature deaths can be prevented by expanding access to vaccines and immunisation in the world's poorest countries.
To meet the Millennium Development Goals, Mrs. Robinson concluded, we must continue working together to increase access to immunisation and other basic health care to families in poor countries.
One way is through the introduction of new vaccines against the two leading killers of children under age five, pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases. These vaccines could save more than 1.9 million lives by 2015 and put developing countries significantly closer to reaching MDG 4, which aims to reduce infant mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
Even during this economic crisis we cannot stray from the goal of providing children in poor countries with the vaccines we use to protect our own children.
Dr Julian Lob-Levyt, GAVI Chief Executive Officer
"We have an unprecedented opportunity to protect and save the lives of children everywhere and to help countries meet the Millennium Development Goals," said Dr Julian Lob-Levyt, GAVI Alliance Chief Executive Officer.
"We remain committed to child health and the life-saving role immunisation can play. Even during this economic crisis we cannot stray from the goal of providing children in poor countries with the vaccines we use to protect our own children. If we do this, our legacy will be a healthier, safer more prosperous world for us all."