€18 Million donation to GAVI Alliance will combat vaccine preventable diseases and strengthen health systems

Geneva, 13 December 2006 - The GAVI Alliance announced today that the Government of Ireland is to make its largest ever financial contribution to support child immunisation and health systems strengthening in the world's poorest nations.

The €18 million contribution, Ireland's largest donation to the GAVI Alliance, will be provided in three instalments of €6 million from 2006 to 2008. The planned annual contribution is a significant increase over earlier donations of €500,000 in 2003 and 2004 and €700,000 in 2005. Ireland's new contribution to GAVI signals a renewed national commitment to accelerate global progress towards reducing child mortality and reaching the health-related Millennium Development Goals. More than 10 million children in the developing world still die every year before reaching their fifth birthday, and a quarter of these deaths could be prevented by use of currently available or new vaccines.

"We are grateful for the Government of Ireland's increased support to GAVI" said Julian Lob-Levyt, Executive Secretary of the GAVI Alliance. "This multi-year contribution, which builds on prior commitments, sends a strong signal about Ireland's commitment to reach global development goals."

The new White Paper on Irish Aid commits to developing programmes that address the key causes of illness and poor health among the poorest and most vulnerable people and to strengthening health systems in the poorest countries.

"I am delighted to announce Ireland's increased support to GAVI which will help protect children from disabling and life threatening diseases," said Conor Lenihan, Minister of State responsible for Irish Aid. "Through the efforts of GAVI many more children in poor countries will be reached with immunisation. I welcome GAVI's commitment to strengthening health systems, as this approach is vital to the longer term sustainability of immunisation and other essential health services," he added.

"I would like to congratulate the Government of Ireland on its scaled up contribution to the GAVI Alliance", noted Mary Robinson, member of the GAVI Fund Board and previous President of Ireland. "The Alliance is demonstrating that sound strategies can help achieve the Millennium Development Goals on health. The right to health is a basic human right", she added. "With this three-year donation, Ireland is signalling its ongoing commitment towards realizing the rights of the most disadvantaged to life saving vaccines and equitable health services."

GAVI's efforts are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goal on child health (MDG4), which calls for reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds by 2015. Since 2001, the GAVI Alliance has supported the immunisation of 15 million children with basic vaccines, and an additional 99 million with new vaccines. The number of children reached with GAVI support with these new vaccines is expected to climb to 225 million by 2008, according to the World Health Organization.

Despite progress made to date in raising global immunisation coverage, more than 27 million children still are not reached by immunisation services every year. As a result, illnesses from preventable diseases in developing countries are nine times higher than in the developed world.

"Even with additional resources, there is still a large funding shortfall of US$ 11-15 billion over the next ten years to achieve 90 percent immunisation coverage in GAVI partner countries. If we could fund this shortfall, we could save an additional 10 million lives over the next decade," Lob-Levyt added.

The GAVI Alliance 

An alliance of all the major stakeholders in immunisation, the GAVI Alliance includes among its partners developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialised and developing countries, research and technical agencies, NGOs, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is estimated that more than 1.7 million early deaths will have been prevented as a result of support by GAVI up to the end of 2005.

GAVI's efforts are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goal on child health, which calls for reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds by 2015. Of the more than 10 million children who die before reaching their fifth birthday every year, 2.5 million die from diseases that could be prevented with currently available or new vaccines.

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