Board Chair of the GAVI Alliance
Dagfinn Hoybraten, Chair of the GAVI Board, with three and a half month old boy Phum Seyha at the Koh Dach health centre outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Credit: GAVI/2013/Luc Forsyth.
From the busiest city clinic to the smallest rural health centre, the privilege of seeing a child vaccinated and the reassurance it brings to a family never fails to stir strong feelings in me.
As the GAVI Alliance Board gathered in Cambodia for a meeting that will shape our mission to 2020, I had the opportunity to meet the children and families who directly benefit from the outcomes of our Board decisions.
In the small Koh Dach village clinic, about 30 minutes from the bustling capital Phnom Penh, I met two-and-a-half-month-old Phum Seyha and his mother Chum Thy.
Thanks to the support of GAVI Alliance partners and the work of dedicated health workers at the Koh Dach centre, Phum Seyha received the pentavalent vaccine. This gives protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B.
Phum Seyha left the clinic under the morning sunshine in the arms of his mother having become one of the 243 million additional children who will be immunised with vaccines funded by the GAVI Alliance between 2011 and 2015.
It is important that we keep the faces behind these numbers at the front of our minds.
Dagfinn with Phum Seyha and his mother Chum Thy at the Koh Dach health centre outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Credit: GAVI/2013/Luc Forsyth.
Immunising nearly a quarter of a billion children in a five year period, as GAVI partners are on track to do, is an impressive feat. Yet it is only by meeting the individual children who are benefitting from vaccines – and the parents and grandparents who are reassured by the knowledge their child or grandchild is receiving protection – that the achievement becomes real.
I firmly believe that health is a fundamental human right for all people and vaccines are one of the most effective ways of protecting people’s health. GAVI’s mission is to ensure that children benefit from the power of vaccines no matter where they live. Ultimately, we want each baby to become a healthy child, teenager and eventually an adult who will lead a productive life while contributing to their country’s growth.
I am pleased that we are on track to meet the ambitious targets we set ourselves in 2011, but the privilege of meeting Phum Seyha and Chum Thy brings the additional pleasure of seeing first-hand the wonderful effect vaccines have on children and parents alike.