Australian and New Zealand politicians were given a comprehensive overview of the GAVI Alliance’s work in Myanmar last week as part of a five-day visit hosted by GAVI Board Chair Dagfinn Høybråten and deputy CEO Helen Evans. The group travelled with senior officials from the WHO, UNICEF and Australian aid agency AUSAID, meeting with senior Myanmar health officials.
The group attended the launch of two new vaccines which will be introduced across Myanmar – the ‘five-in-one’ pentavalent vaccine and the measles second dose vaccine – as well as holding several in-depth meetings with the Myanmar health minister and getting a view from the ground with field visits.
Health professionals from across the country attended the vaccines launch, where Dagfinn Høybråten spoke on behalf of the GAVI Alliance to underline the importance of vaccination in protecting the lives of young children.
The delegation was accompanied by a television crew from Channel 10 News Australia, who interviewed Dagfinn Høybråten and Helen Evans for stories on GAVI's work in Myanmar that have gone out on the top rating news show nationally across Australia.
Senior officials from UNICEF and AUSAID working in Myanmar also featured in some of these news stories, showcasing the diversity and strength of the GAVI partnerships delivering better health outcomes for local people.
A rural health clinic and township hospital were visited, with the group very impressed by the resolve of local midwives and health professionals to help local people via mass immunisations in difficult circumstances.
Myanmar is a country in transition, emerging from decades of isolation. Everyone who attended the delegation was left in no doubt as to the challenges facing the country; a decayed public health infrastructure needing urgent rebuilding.
Equally however, attendees were left in no doubt as to the determination of the senior health leadership of the country to improve the lives of the citizenry. GAVI and its partner organisations on the ground will be working very hard to contribute to this effort.