New Delhi, 11 March 2006- Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan visited the Kalawati Saran Children's Hospital today to meet with patients and hospital workers to celebrate the health system advances in India in recent years and draw attention to the country's increased efforts to bolster nationwide immunization coverage.
The facility was established in 1956 and is currently the largest children's hospital in northern India. The 350-bed facility includes a pediatric emergency unit, neonatal ward, and serves as a training center for national health programs-a model for the medical institutions and programs needed in developing countries.
"Whether a child is born in Jordan or in India, he should have the same chance for a good life," Queen Rania said. "We have in hand the tools needed to prevent the deaths of these children. We must do whatever it takes to get vaccines to areas where children are dying of preventable diseases. We should not rest until every child, in every corner of the world, is guaranteed a happy and healthy start to life."
An outspoken advocate for the rights of women and children, Her Majesty Queen Rania underscored the human cost of the lack of access to the most basic, cost-effective public health tools-vaccines. Millions of children are dying each year, largely from preventable causes.
Her Majesty has a long track record of involvement in child health initiatives, both in Jordan and around the world. Since 2001, she has served on The GAVI Fund Board of Directors, chaired by the esteemed Mrs. Graça Machel. Originally launched in 1999 as The Vaccine Fund, The GAVI Fund is the financing arm of The GAVI Alliance, raising money to purchase new and underutilized vaccines and the strengthening of health systems. The Fund's mission is to ensure that all of the world's people-no matter how rich or how poor-have equal access to life-saving vaccines.
"PATH has worked for years with the Indian government and industry for introduction of hepatitis B and Japanese encephalitis vaccines. Making sure injections are safe is part of this effort. We are delighted with Her Majesty's visit to India, as it highlights the importance of immunization work," said Dr. Raj Kumar, director of immunization in India for PATH, an international nonprofit organization and early co-founder of the GAVI Alliance.
The World Health Organization estimates that every year immunization programs save about three million lives and prevent an additional 750,000 children from becoming disabled. However, child health advocates agree that there is a great disparity in access to immunization: a child in the developing world is 10 times more likely to die of a vaccine-preventable disease than a child in the industrialized world.
Through the efforts of groups like The GAVI Alliance, the world's 72 poorest nations are making progress toward achieving the UN Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015. It is estimated that more than 1.7 million early deaths will have been prevented as a result of GAVI support through the end of 2005. Members of the GAVI Alliance include governments in industrialized and developing countries, UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, non-governmental organizations, foundations, vaccine manufacturers, and public health and research institutions.
India is one of 72 developing countries eligible for GAVI funding. GAVI's innovative initiatives include the International Finance Facility for Immunization (IFFIm), a new finance mechanism that is expected to provide US$4 billion in global immunization program funding over the next 10 years, saving the lives of an additional five million children. Her Majesty applauded French President Chirac's recent announcement of support for IFFIm, declaring that the initiative "will provide a substantial and much-needed boost in current aid for vaccine programs in developing countries."
Another potential investment in immunization is Advanced Market Commitments (AMCs), being considered by the G7. This innovative financing mechanism will create a financial incentive for the development of vaccines for diseases that primarily affect poor countries. GAVI and the World Bank have been asked to advise the G7 on how that pilot should be developed. The joint recommendations from the GAVI and the World Bank will inform a decision by G7 at their Spring Meetings in April.
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The GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) was launched in 2000 in an effort to increase immunization rates and reverse widening global disparities in access to vaccines. It is a public-private partnership that is driven by the recognition that only through a strong and united effort can much higher levels of support for global immunization be generated.
PATH, an international, nonprofit organization, creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions that enable communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. By collaborating with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. PATH's work improves global health and well-being. Visit www.path.org.