Ahead of the World Education Forum, RESULTS Korea Calls for Leadership in Education

Dan Jones, Head of Campaigns. 

Today, a major summit focused on deciding the Post-2015 Education For All agenda – the World Education Forum – begins in Incheon, South Korea. To mark the occasion with some great advocacy, RESULTS Korea has harnessed Children’s Day — observed on May 5 in Korea — to publish its first-ever Korean language opinion piece, calling on its government to meet the international standard of committing 10 percent of development assistance to basic education. The article was originally published here, in one of the top five most widely read newspapers in the country, and has been translated and reproduced below.

Korea Should be Exemplary as the Country Hosting the World Education ForumMi_Jong_Kwon

By Mi Jong Kwon, Assistant Professor of English Literature at Anyang University and RESULTS Korea Volunteer

As the whole world is being linked via Facebook, drones deliver packages from the sky, and nouveaux riches emerge from the ranks of programmers, I wonder how many kids are still out of primary school. The answer is 57 million. Half of them live in conflict zones. If Steve Jobs had not received primary education, would Apple have been born? If Ma-Won of Ali-Baba had not received primary education, could he have dared to dream of being the king of online marketing?

The Education for All (EFA) movement started 25 years ago, and in the year 2000, at the World Education Forum, it set the goal of achieving universal access to primary education by 2015. With the cooperation of many countries, 90 percent of its primary school enrollment goal has been reached. If in 25 years, this much was achieved, we must admit, with regret, that we could have completed the job with stepped up efforts.

If the rate of increase that happened between 1999 and 2008 continued, we would have just about reached our target of 100 percent. Also, even when we say that we reached a 90 percent ratio for primary education enrollment, in sub-Saharan Africa the rate of completion reaches only 56 percent. In Arab countries and sub-Saharan Africa, two-thirds of girls who are not attending school in a given year will never go to school at all. When we look at the graduation level, things look much worse. Of the 90 countries monitored for progress on EFA, only 13 countries have reached universal completion of primary school. Despite these facts, due to the complacency of reaching 90 percent, the tendency to invest in education is turning downward.

Currently, in our country (South Korea) primary and middle school is compulsory. Even when our country was poor, we knew the importance of education; we invested a lot of money in education and became one of the top countries to champion education. But we must remember that during much of this era, we were an aid-receiving country. Without that aid, the present state of development would have occurred for South Korea at a much later date.

The upcoming World Education Forum will take place in Incheon on May 19-22. Its purpose is to review the promises made previously and to deliberate on new education objectives for 2030. One of the promises is to secure primary and middle school education (nine years) for all boys and girls. To accomplish this, we need $22 billion dollars annually. But aid going to education has been declining by six percent every year. This is because we have overlooked the importance of education and have not kept it as a priority. So while the goal is laudable, the financial resources are insufficient.

In this year 2015, when we are about to set a new target, Japan and Norway, two education champions, have refused to commit 10 percent of their aid to primary and middle school education. The reason is because there has not been any country that has had the courage to show the way. It is time that Korea showed the example and led the way.

As the country that is hosting the 2015 World Education Forum, as the country that has championed education more than any other, and as the country that became a donor country after being a recipient county (largely thanks to investments in its citizens’ education), we must show the way by dedicating 10 percent of our aid to primary and middle school education. This would be the way to be reborn as the country providing true leadership in education.

You can watch the World Education Forum livestreamed via http://en.unesco.org/world-education-forum-2015/

Five things you didn’t know about the search for a HIV Vaccine

Archbishop Desmond Tutu gets an HIV test

Archbishop Desmond Tutu gets an HIV test

Developing an HIV vaccine is one of the greatest scientific challenges in history. Leading scientists have dedicated their careers to breaking this enigma – some of them in the UK, some in Africa where their work is blazing a trail for other African scientists. Every day, they are edging closer to a breakthrough. Today, May 18th, is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, so here are five things you probably didn’t know about their mission to eliminate one of the deadliest diseases in history:

1. HIV is a very, very tricky customer

The HIV vaccine directly attacks the immune system, turning the cells that are supposed to be fighting it into virus factories. Once a single virus particle enters the bloodstream, it quickly duplicates and mutates into a multitude of slightly different versions, so any medicine has to be able to kill many different versions of the virus. The virus is so effective that not a single person has independently fought it off. This deprives researchers of a common method of designing a vaccine: copying the natural response of the body’s immune system.

2. Scientists have prevented HIV infection in mice, monkeys – and humans

In response to the challenge of hitting a moving target with your best players out injured and no training manual, scientists have learnt some clever tricks. One is to inject a non-dangerous virus to get the immune system going, then follow up with a bit of an HIV virus, to convince the white blood cells to prepare in advance for a full scale HIV attack. This method led to a breakthrough back in 2009 – a 31% reduction in HIV infection in volunteers tested in Thailand.

Scientists at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) are now taking this idea even further, using cutting edge technology to create a ‘mosaic’ HIV virus. This patchwork quilt will contain all the bits of the HIV virus that never change, no matter how many times it mutates, stitched together – so that your immune system is covered, whichever strain of the disease attacks.

3. Molecular and genetic engineering can turn years into days

Another breakthrough came with the discovery of special antibodies that can fight HIV – but are made in the body much too slowly to defend against an HIV attack. These can be injected straight into a healthy body, or even better, used for reverse engineering. That is, scientists are using the ‘key’ shape on these antibodies to work out what the matching ‘lock’ shape on the HIV virus looks like. They hope to then create safe copies of these ‘lock’ shaped bits, which will trigger the production of antibodies when injected into the body, protecting against HIV infection.

And just in case this isn’t clever enough for you, scientists at IAVI are hoping to take this one step further. Experiments are ongoing to re-write the genetic code of the non-dangerous virus mentioned above to include instructions for producing these special antibodies. So when the non-dangerous virus is injected, it will turn cells in the body into antibody factories, ready to fight off HIV should it rear its ugly head.

4. HIV vaccine science will save millions of lives – and billions of dollars

In four paragraphs, I’ve summed up 30 years of expensive, complicated, two steps forward-one step back work, carried out by some of the smartest people on the planet. As Bill Gates said earlier this year, we can be optimistic that an HIV vaccine – and a cure – will be found within the next 15 years, but let’s not pretend it’s going to be easy.

It’s going to be hard, and it’s going to need lots of money, and expertise, and commitment by those who can deliver those two things. The length of time and upfront costs needed by HIV vaccine R&D can work as barriers to big pharmaceutical companies getting involved. We need governments who understand the long-term public and economic value to get behind the work, no matter how long it takes. The UK Government has helped fund the work in the past, but we need them to keep going, and keep their eyes on the prize.

The figures add up. An HIV vaccine could save $95bn in treatment costs alone in its first ten years, and expand poor countries’ economies by over $15,000 per life saved – all for a one off outlay of less than $1bn. To put this cost in perspective, we spend $2bn globally every year on hair loss surgery (again, statistic courtesy of Bill Gates).

5. Tell your government to get behind an HIV Vaccine

Every year, 1.5 million people die from AIDS, after the HIV virus has damaged their immune system so much that they can’t defend themselves against even common illnesses. AIDS has killed half of the 78 million people it has infected in the last four decades, and is now the leading killer of adult women in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS destroys families, takes away futures and throws people into poverty, while holding back whole continents.

It’s not all bad news – the amazing work of the Global Fund, combined with new drugs to treat HIV and increased access to cheaper, generic versions of such drugs, has slowed the growth of this epidemic. But despite this huge achievement, there are still 2.1 million new HIV infections every year. We simply will not see HIV/AIDS eliminated without a vaccine. This HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, let’s spare a thought for the scientists working to get us there, and then spend a minute to tell our governments why it is worth paying for their work.

If you’re in the UK, please tweet Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, with a selfie and your message supporting the development of an HIV Vaccine:

Dear @JoJohnsonMP please support the search for an @AIDSVaccine this #HVAD by funding #HIV basic science @RESULTSUK

For more information, check out this great article by Wayne Koff, IAVI’s Chief Scientific Officer, and watch this video featuring scientists from across the world.

Alternatively, you can email laura.boughey@results.org.uk, Parliamentary Advocacy Coordinator at RESULTS UK and lead for Global Health R&D.

Changing of the Guard

By Matt Oliver, Parliamentary Advocacy Officer for TB.

Last Thursday evening saw one of the most remarkable elections the UK has ever had. As the nation went to the polls, few could have expected what was about to unfold. By 8am the following morning, 92 MPs had lost their seats, joining a further 90 who had previously indicated that they would be standing down. After many experts had heralded the end of ‘two party politics’, the Conservatives were returned to Westminster with a narrow majority.

In years to come, this election will be one that people talk about. Not only will we discuss the surprise of the result itself – on a personal note I don’t think I will ever forget exactly where I was when the exit poll was unveiled – but also the dignity and grace shown in equal measure by the vanquished and the victorious.

Amongst those who did not retain their seats were many RESULTS UK champions, people with whom we’ve worked over many years. On a personal note, the co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB, Andrew George, was involved in the very last constituency to be announced. Like so many other Liberal Democrats, he lost his seat, ending ten years co-chairing the group. I will be very sorry to no longer work with him.

Similarly, other long-time supporters stood down: Annette Brooke, the MP for Mid-Dorset and Poole and an education, TB and microfinance champion, decided not to stand again. As did David Blunkett and Peter Hain, education and disability, and TB champions respectively. They, and many others, made a great contribution to our work and we wish them the best with all their future endeavours.

Of course, for every MP who loses another is victorious. Our task over the coming months and years is to build relationships with new MPs and to continue our successful association with champions who have returned to the Commons. The next year is critical for development, and for the issues that RESULTS UK works on, so we’ll be aiming to hit the ground running as soon as parliament returns.

Finally, amidst all the election drama, do spare a thought for the staff of the MPs who have lost their seats. Whilst the MPs have to face their defeat publicly, four or five staff for each MP were also sacked by the electorate on Thursday night. At RESULTS UK we do a lot of work with MP’s staff, in fact, we couldn’t do our work without them. They are a hard-working, often unrecognised, group and without them our democracy would not function. So, if you’re reading this blog, and you’ve ever had contact with an MP’s office and staff, I urge you to send them a short message thanking them for their work and wishing them the best for the future, I’m sure it would be appreciated.

May conference call recording now available!

Our May conference call is now available for download! The call was joined by Amanda Segnini from the Brazilian youth-led campaigning group Engajamundo who spoke about the devastating impact of climate change in Brazil and the amazing campaigning that Engajamundo’s campaign groups are doing to ensure decisive action is taken at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP 21) in Paris in December.

Listen again here:

 

As always we had fantastic questions from Grassroots volunteers, who joined us from Bristol, Oxford, Norwich, and Manchester , to name just a few!

If you would like to join one of our many campaign groups across the country, drop Tom an email at tom.maguire@results.org.uk or give the office a call on 02007 793 3970. We would love to hear from you!

RESULTS UK National Conference Speaker Sneak Peak

With less than 6 weeks to go till the RESULTS UK National Conference, we want to whet your appetites with a teaser of the speakers we have lined up for the session on why the new Sustainable Development Goals, to be announced at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 26th, should be disability-inclusive.

Sharing their expertise:

Lucy Drescher Pic

1. Lucy Drescher, RESULTS UK (Chair)

Lucy is our very own new Head of Parliamentary Advocacy. Before joining RESULTS UK, Lucy worked at Sense International for over 16 years, an international organisation working with deafblind people and their families in seven countries around the world. She has also worked closely with the Bond Disability and Development group in lobbying the International Development Select Committee, as well as advising the Department for International Development (DFID) on producing a Disability Framework.

 

2. Colin Mackenzie Low, Baron Low of Dalston CBE

Former Chair, now Vice President of RNIB, and President of ICEVI (International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment), Colin Low (CBE) taught Law and Criminology at Leeds University, before becoming Director of the GLC’s Disability Resource Team. He then carried out research into theories of disability as Senior Research Fellow at City University, and was appointed to the House of Lords in 2006. He was a member of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (1994-2007); the Disability Rights Task Force (1997-1999); and the Disability Rights Commission (2000-2002), and now chairs the Low Commission on the future of advice and legal support on social welfare law.

 

Julia McGeown Pic

3. Julia McGeown, Handicap International UK

Julia is an expert on Special Needs Education in developing counties and currently working as Inclusive Education Technical Advisor at Handicap International UK, and as Equity and Inclusion Advisor for WaterAid. Also under her belt, she has 12 years of clinical experience as a Paediatric Speech and Language Therapist for children with complex disabilities and 3 years of field experience in Uganda and Nigeria, where she worked as a Lecturer, Clinician, Teacher Trainer, Supervisor, Advocacy Expert and Fundraiser.

 

4. Mosharraf Hossain, Action on Disability and Development International (ADD International) 

Mosharraf is Director of Policy and Influencing at ADD International. He has  20 years experience of managing countrywide disability and development programmes, as well as having worked as a consultant to the UNDP and DFID. Under Mosharraf’s management, ADD collaborated with the National Grassroots Disability Organisation and the National Council of Disabled Women. His particular expertise lies in gender and disability, inclusive disaster resilience and the economic  empowerment of people with disabilities.

Disability in the post 2015 agenda is just one of many topics we will be discussing at the RESULTS UK Conference (June 13th-15th). If you want to find our more and book your tickets, click here and if you have any questions, feel free to contact ola.forman@results.org.uk

Imagine a world without Polio

In the fifth and final blog from our World Immunisation Week series, Jim Calverley, Parliamentary Advocacy Officer (Child Health) at RESULTS UK discusses the prospects of eradicating Polio.

Until a few short months ago, I was a solicitor, working in a busy London law firm. I knew very little about Polio but I did know that I had been immunised against it as a child. That is apt because this highly infectious, viral disease mainly affects children under the age of 5. Whilst the majority of infected children do not exhibit symptoms of the disease, 1 in 200 cases leads to irreversible paralysis. Of those, about 5 to 10% will die from the disease due to their breathing muscles becoming immobilised.

I have since left the law and in the time that I have been at RESULTS UK, I have learnt a good deal more about Polio. I have learnt that there is in fact good news which is this: Polio can be eradicated given its inability to survive for long periods outside the human body. It is therefore feasible that Polio could become only the second disease in history (after smallpox) to be eradicated from the face of the earth. On any level, that would be a staggering achievement.

The disease has been reduced by more than 99% from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988. Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the last three endemic Polio countries. The last reported case in Nigeria was on 24 July 2014 and there is real hope that an important landmark can be achieved with Nigeria (and by extension, Africa) remaining Polio-free for a year. Against all the odds, India was certified Polio-free in 2011 – an achievement which must continue to galvanise the rest of the international community to achieve global Polio-free status.

Paradoxically, the frequently adopted position that ‘one final push’ is all that is required to eradicate Polio actually makes it difficult for stakeholders to talk frankly about the challenges of eradication. That it is within sight should not detract from the fact that the remaining 1% will be the most difficult to achieve.

The alternative to eradication is bleak. As long as a single child remains infected with Polio, children in all countries are at risk and the failure to eradicate Polio could result in as many as 200,000 cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world. The human (and treatment) costs of such an outcome are such that it is more cost-effective and logical to focus on the benefits of investing in the eradication of Polio. Leaving aside for one moment the human cost, eradication makes financial sense as it is estimated that the world economy will benefit by $50 billion over 20 years from eradication. Furthermore, in reaching the poorest and most marginalised in society, the eradication of Polio contributes to breaking the poverty cycle: a healthy population will progress further in school and have a reduced reliance on the health system and. It will also be more proactive and help to avert economic productivity losses as it progresses into adulthood.

Polio-funded infrastructure will also leave an essential legacy for global disease surveillance. Indeed, the Polio surveillance systems in Nigeria played a significant part in what was widely considered to be a hugely successful response to Ebola. Investment in vaccinations are universally accepted as being a highly cost-efficient way of tackling Polio (and many other life-threatening and debilitating diseases) and that investment makes all the more sense when one considers that the costs of responding to a global Polio epidemic may well be akin to the costs of responding to Ebola.

Britain is a global leader in polio eradication efforts and has already helped vaccinate 200 million children since 2009. I am proud that the UK is going to fund the vaccination of up to 360 million children against Polio between 2013 and 2018. The suffering that will be averted by ensuring all children receive Polio vaccines is barely imaginable and I hope that the example set by the UK Government will encourage the UK’s international counterparts to prioritise making Polio a disease of the past.

 

In the Fight Against the World’s Deadliest Diseases, It’s Time to Take the Next Step

This blog post from Taryn Russell, Campaigns Officer – Child Health and Vaccines at RESULTS Canada, is the fourth in our World Immunisation Week series on “Closing the Gap on Immunisations”. Stay tuned for more posts from our ACTION partners around the world!

For 3,000 years smallpox was one of the world’s most feared diseases.  The virus caused fevers, sore throats, and vomiting in its victims, followed by a rash on the face and body. The rash preceded disfiguring and painful sores and, for 30% of those infected, death.  In the 20thcentury alone, it’s estimated that more than 300 million people worldwide died from smallpox but today, the only place you will find a smallpox victim is in the history books.  The last known case of wild smallpox occurred in Somalia in 1976.

WIW_2015_Infographic_24-4-2015

Why is this case? Because vaccines work. In 1798 Edward Jenner made an observation that would save millions of lives and revolutionise medicine. He noticed that milkmaids previously infected with cowpox were not susceptible to smallpox. His experiments with inoculation were refined throughout the next 200 years and resulted in a successful global effort to eradicate smallpox  spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 1960s and 1970s.

Vaccines are one of the most successful public health interventions ever. The WHO estimates that vaccines prevent between 2 and 3 million deaths annually, not only saving lives, but also allowing people to thrive by protecting them  from both disability and illness, and producing major economic benefits.  Healthy children stay in school longer, bringing greater long-term benefits to themselves and their families.  Vaccines also take the strain of treating preventable diseases off often already overburdened health systems.

Progress due to vaccinations over the last century has been nothing if not astounding but there is still much more work to be done. In 2015 it is estimated that 1 in 5 children will miss out of life saving immunizations. This gap means that millions of the world’s most vulnerable children are susceptible to illnesses such as child pneumonia and diarrhoea, both leading causes of child mortality and both vaccine preventable. How do we close the immunization gap? The WHO has identified three key steps which will require a concerted global undertaking to address.

First, we must integrate immunization with other health services. By combining the delivery of vaccinations with other health interventions on issues that affect infants and children such as malnutrition and vitamin deficiency we can reduce inefficiencies in delivery and ensure children are getting all the health services they require.

Secondly, we must strengthen health systems so that they can continue vaccination through crises. The importance of this cannot be overstated as we saw the decimation of health systems during the recent Ebola outbreaks in West Africa.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, we need to ensure that vaccines are accessible and affordable to all. This is a real issue as a recent report by Medicins Sans Frontieres found that the cost to fully immunize a child has increased a whopping 68 fold from 2001-2014. The high price of vaccines means that not only are the poorest countries having difficulties procuring and vaccinating their populations but that middle income countries are also being priced out of vaccines and large swatches of the population are going unprotected.

Donors have attempted to address these steps by pledging $7. 5 billion over 2015-2018 to Gavi the Vaccines Alliance, the public-private partnership launched in 2000 to provide vaccines to the world’s poorest. Gavi also does work on strengthening health systems and shaping the vaccines market to try to ensure that vaccines are accessible for all. This is a good first step but it will be imperative that countries are held accountable for following through on these pledges. Closing the immunization gap will also require political will along with money as governments need to prioritize immunization within their health budget. Governments as well as civil society also need to emphasize the importance and benefits of vaccines to their populations as everyone needs to fully buy in to power of vaccines if we are to close the immunization gap once and for all.

Let’s not make the eradication of smallpox a once in a lifetime anomaly.  Let’s repeat this grand success and continue to eliminate vaccine preventable diseases as well as protect against those that are here to stay. It will be important for all governments to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as they lead the global effort to permanently rid the world of one of its most debilitating diseases.  Polio – you’re up next!”  Polio – you’re up next!

Measles: From Washington to Lagos via Berlin – no passport required

The third blog in our World Immunisation Week series comes from Vanessa Boas, European Advocacy Officer from Global Health Advocates. 

Measles moves fast. The highly contagious virus can strike anywhere at any time, be it in Nigerian refugee camps or California’s Disneyland. Measles does not distinguish between rich and poor; instead, it seeks out the vulnerable – like infants below the minimum vaccination age, or those who skipped routine vaccinations.

The recent measles outbreak in Berlin illustrates this perfectly: Measles quickly started spreading around the German capital in October 2014, claiming 1000 cases in six months. A large immunisation gap equalling about 10% of the German population was at the root of the problem. Substantial segments of the German population are not vaccinated against measles because they slipped through the system or consciously chose not to be vaccinated. The recent death of a toddler has now sparked a lively debate in German media about whether the measles vaccine should be mandatory.

This raucous media debate is now clouding a very clear reality: vaccines are safe, affordable, and effective tools that are saving lives, not only in Europe, but in the world’s poorest countries. In countries like Bangladesh, Benin, and Brazil parents value immunisation because they have seen too many loved ones die from preventable diseases like measles.

Yet while a cheap measles vaccine is readily available in Europe for those who want it, that isn’t always the case in much of the world.

In 2000, more than 562,000 children died worldwide from measles complications – many of those in the world’s poorest countries. Yet over 13 years, we have made huge progress in the fight against measles, with a 75% drop in deaths from measles recorded between 2000 and 2013.

But there is still much more to do.

In 2013, there were 145,700 measles deaths globally – that is around 400 deaths a day. Filling the current 16% immunisation gap should be our priority in order not to give the virus a chance. This means reaching those people who currently spread the disease by not being vaccinated. Once 95% of the global population has been vaccinated against measles, it’s predicted that the virus will die out just like smallpox!

But to reach this goal, governments must allocate sufficient resources to strengthen health systems and make vaccines readily available, accessible and affordable around the globe.

One way of making this happen is to ensure the work of Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, is fully funded. Gavi is a public-private global health partnership playing a vital role in filling the immunisation gap. By pooling vaccine demand and jointly negotiating with pharmaceutical companies, Gavi has succeeded in substantially cutting vaccine costs for the world’s poorest countries. Countries such as Rwanda can therefore afford to carry out nationwide measles campaigns, and reach coverage rates of 95%.

With Gavi support, it’s estimated that a total of 700 million children will be vaccinated against measles in countries such as Ghana, Bangladesh, and Senegal by 2020. The European Commission recently committed €200 million to Gavi for 2016-2020, raising its pledge by 293% compared to 2011-2015, therefore marking its determination to be part of the effort of making vaccines readily available for all.

However, substantial hurdles remain: remote areas frequently cannot be reached due to an absence of health care services or infrastructural constraints. Existing vaccines are often not adapted to extreme climatic conditions and thus perish along the way. Investing in research and development, along with the strengthening of health and community systems, will therefore be key to closing the immunization gap. The European Commission has the capacity to target these sectors through its development aid and research policies.

 

The world is increasingly interconnected and we cannot close our eyes to outbreaks in other parts of the world. After Typhoon Haiyan, American travellers unwittingly brought measles from the Philippines to the US. This later resulted in outbreaks all over the United States. To prevent the unnecessary loss of life to measles, international donors and governments must ensure that every child is vaccinated – be it in Disneyland, Berlin or Nigeria.

Committed to vaccines

This blog post by Jeremy Brennan,  RESULTS Australia’s Global Health Campaign Manager, is the second in our World Immunisation Week series on “Closing the Gap on immunisations”. 

In today’s Australia, government funded Medicare gives all Australians access to lifesaving vaccines that so many parents only a couple of generations ago wished they could have had for their children. Imagine what the parents of former Deputy Prime Minister Kim Beazley, media tycoon and billionaire, the late Kerry Packer and prominent radio talk show host John Laws would have given for a vaccine that would have stopped their sons from contracting polio as children?

Photo: Khoi Cao- Cam

Photo: Khoi Cao- Cam

Currently, there is a debate raging in Australia around what to do about parents across the country who are “vaccine refusers”. In an effort to convert the ‘refusers’ to ‘immunisers’, the Federal Government has taken a strong stance to withhold family tax benefits and rebates worth up to $15,000 per child per year.

What has been highlighted many times in the current debate is that a parents’ decision not to immunise can drastically increases the risk to the rest of us. Vaccination rates can be thought of as working like a sporting team or a political party for that matter. If more than 10% of your team decides that they are going to start playing for themselves instead of the team, then the chances of the team winning decreases by a huge amount. It is the same for vaccines; when more than 10% of a community stops getting the measles vaccination the chances of all children in that community getting encephalitis (swelling of the brain caused by measles) is 1 in 2000. When more than 90% of children are vaccinated, only 1 in a million children get encephalitis. Playing as a team decreases your child’s chance of encephalitis by 500 times.

Kim Beazley spent over a year in a hospital isolation ward, in an iron lung and in rehabilitation due to contracting polio as a child. Laws contracted polio in either Papua New Guinea (PNG), where he was born, or in Australia. And it is important to compare these two countries when considering our immunisation discussion. In a number of Australian suburbs vaccination rates are starting to drop below that 90% mark because parents are choosing not to vaccinate. By comparison in PNG the vaccination rate for measles in 2013 was 70%. In PNG immunisation is not an option for every family. Experiencing the suffering and loss of life this ‘immunsation gap’ causes, I’m sure they wish they could have these vaccinations for their children.

Worldwide, pneumonia is the single largest cause of infectious death in children Pneumonia kills almost one million children under the age of five every year. This is even more heartbreaking when you consider that a vaccine that has been in use since 2000 could have prevented these deaths. Almost 22 million children are missing out on basic vaccines every year.

Looking at the situation in PNG and other disadvantaged countries doesn’t just allow us to see the challenges faced by Australia’s previous generations. It also gives us insight into the consistency of our actions as a country. Our Government’s strong action on immunistaion domestically to reduce the number of parents refusing to vaccinate is also reflected through our international support for immunisation programs. Last year at the Rotary National Conference the Prime Minister announced his ongoing commitment to the $100 million previously commitment to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative over the next four years. The government has also committed $250 million to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance over the same time period keeping it in the top ten international donors to Gavi

I’m sure the 40 000 Rotarians across Australia would agree that the Prime Minister has continued an important investment in the amazing work of Rotary to eradicate polio around the world which will return a net benefit estimated at $45 billion over 30 years. Our ongoing commitment to Gavi has contributed to the immunisation of 500 million children since it began in 2000 and averted and estimated 7 million deaths. This is well invested Australian aid making real change.

We must never forget that so many parents in our neighbouring countries and across the world wish they had access to vaccines for their children. Children who are as dear to them as our children are to us. In Australia we have access to these vaccines and we must work together to ensure that no child is at risk, and that eventually we can eradicate these diseases all together.

What about the fifth child?

This blog from ACTION Director Hannah Bowen is the first in our world immunisation week series on “closing the gap”. Stay tuned for more posts from partners around the world throughout the week. This blog was originally posted on www.action.org.

As a child, I learned pretty quickly that Bowen was a lucky last name to be born with. As I dutifully lined up in alphabetical order at school, I was always near the front – first to the playground for recess, first to the cafeteria for lunch. I never felt too much guilt about this luck; I knew everyone else would eventually have their turn.

But what if the end of the alphabet was never reached at all? What if the last few kids never had their turn, just because of the name they were born with?

Kids_waiting_for_health_careIt may sound ridiculous, but this is the current situation of global access to vaccines. Four out of five children in the world have access to basic life-saving vaccines. But as UNICEF Executive Director Tony Lake asks: “What about that fifth child? What about the 22 million newborn children around the world who are not so blessed? Who risk illness, uncertain futures, even death? Left behind because they live in remote, hard to reach, and underserved communities?”

The theme of this year’s World Immunization Week is “Closing the Gap”, and experts, advocates, health workers, donors, and communities are all discussing and (hopefully) taking action on what it will take to reach every last child with vaccines.

As a global health advocacy partnership that believes all people should have the chance to be healthy and live out their full potential, ACTION works to put community involvement and political accountability at the heart of efforts to close the immunization gap.

First, on accountability: if we are to close the gap, donors must deliver on the bold and ambitious pledges they made to Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, a public-private partnership that supports poor countries to expand access to vaccines.

In Berlin in January, leaders pledged an ambitious $7.539 billion to Gavi’s work. Gavi estimates this funding will enable it to support the world’s poorest countries to vaccinate 300 million additional children from 2016-2020, preventing up to 6 million deaths.

Our new funding tracker clearly shows, however, that there is room for many countries to do more. Notably, Japan is slated to take over the G7 presidency, but was the only G7 country that did not chip in to fund Gavi for the next five years.

More work is also needed to turn pledges into real funding. Past ACTION funding trackers revealed strong follow-through by donor countries: in May 2014, 14 out of 17 major donors had delivered on their 2011-2015 commitments to Gavi. But there is no guarantee the new round of 2016-2020 pledges, from a wider variety of sources, will go as smoothly. Advocates must keep up the pressure on donors and ensure they fulfill their promises.

Then, when funding moves out the door, it must also be used for maximum impact – to reach that fifth child who has not yet been reached. To make sure that happens, Gavi must prioritize working with communities and involving civil society organizations.

ACTION recently collaborated on a report with Save the Children analyzing how Gavi can help close the immunization gap and act effectively on its strategy, which emphasizes equity. Recommendations included prioritizing the hardest–to-reach children, investing in health systems, and playing a greater role in bringing down vaccine prices for governments beyond Gavi’s support. But the importance of community engagement cut across our analysis.

DS_Photo_6Since remote communities often have little access to information on vaccines, community service organizations (CSOs) create buy-in, ownership, and demand for immunization.

CSOs also help improve the planning, management, and performance of equitable health systems’ immunization programs. Since 2011, national CSO platforms have been established in at least 14 countries. In January, we sat down with Dr. D.S. Akram, member of the Gavi civil society steering committee and president of HELP – an NGO based in Pakistan that provides primary health care in hard-to-reach areas. Here’s what she said about the role of CSOs in supporting expanded immunizations:

“A strategic goal for Gavi was to increase demand and improve access to vaccination in inaccessible areas. Gavi has therefore supported the creation of a national CSO platform in Pakistan, and these same CSOs received funding to initiate projects in different parts. By meeting with elders, forming village committees, and suggesting solutions, we have also been helping to produce reports and case studies for Gavi that have been helpful to understand the situation on immunization in various regions…

With support from Gavi, CSOs are therefore making themselves increasingly visible in Pakistan — the government has started recognizing and calling on CSOs more. For instance, the CSO platform in Pakistan is being consulted and included in budget and strategic planning for the health systems strengthening funding application being made by Pakistan this year. With the support of Gavi and with our increasing numbers, there is an opportunity for CSOs to help reach where the government has been unable to reach with vaccines. This can go a long way in creating sustainability by demand creation and motivation in these areas.”

This World Immunization Week, we’re motivated to keep pushing for accountability from donors and engagement from civil society to ensure all children have access to vaccines. Working together, we can close the gap so that every child, whatever her last name, wherever she is in the line at school, and wherever she was born in the world, has the same chance at a healthy start.