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.

RESULTS welcomes Ola as Events Volunteer

IMG_2330Hello everyone!

My name is Ola Forman and I have just started as RESULTS UK’s Conference Volunteer. I will be in a few days a week helping to research, organise and promote the RESULTS National Conference. The conference will take place on the 13th-15th of June, after which I will be spending 10 weeks in Tanzania, volunteering with local entrepreneurs through Department for International Development (DFID) and Raleigh International.

I am currently in my second year of university at UCL, studying an interdisciplinary course called Arts and Sciences (BASc), majoring in political science and policy. The more I learn about global poverty, health, education and the role of international politics, the more I think international development is a field I would like to work in after graduating.

In 2014, I ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Amnesty International and have since been involved with some of their work but this is my first official role with an NGO. Many people care about global issues but see them as too complex to tackle. What drew me to RESULTS was the emphasis on the fact that we have enough resources in the world to tackle poverty; it’s just political will that is lacking. I look forward to being part of a team of passionate people who want to change that and make sure poverty is eradicated by 2030. To learn more and sign up for our National Conference, click here.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at ola.forman@results.org.uk

RESULTS welcome Lucy Drescher as the new Head of Parliamentary Advocacy

Hi all, I am Lucy Drescher and I am the new Head of Parliamentary Advocacy at RESULTS UK. The parliamentary team is responsible for leading the RESULTS engagement with the UK parliament in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Members of the team are able to involve MPs and Peers in RESULTS events and campaigning work on TB, Child Health, Nutrition and Education. So, I am now in the process of finding out all about the work RESULTS  does in these areas!

Lucy photo

Before joining RESULTS, I worked at Sense International, an international organisation that works with deafblind people and their families in seven countries around the world. For the last couple of years I have been working closely with other organisations working on disability and development, as part of the Bond Disability and Development group, to lobby the International Development Select Committee to do an inquiry into disability and development. Following the production of the report on the inquiry, the government responded and promised to produce a Disability Framework. I was part of the group that met with DFID to advise them on the development of this Framework. All of this enabled me to develop knowledge around disability and development which I hope to be able to contribute to the work of RESULTS UK.

I am really pleased to have joined RESULTS UK and look forward to meeting all the campaigners and parliamentarians who we work with.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at lucy.drescher@results.org.uk

Right to Education Index Consultation Now Open!

By William C. Smith, RTEI Senior Associate. This blog post originally appeared on the RESULTS U.S. website here

GPE/Natasha Graham/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

GPE/Natasha Graham/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sixty million children remain out of school, pregnant girls are being expelled, and the school fee abolition movement has stalled, pricing the poorest children out of education. Speak out against these tragedies by supporting and participating in the first global RTEI consultation.

Join RESULTS Educational Fund during the formative stage as we develop the Right to Education Index (RTEI). In taking a first, necessary step in ensuring children enjoy the right to education, RTEI aims to fortify and unite North and South advocacy campaigns by providing clear leverage for civil society organizations to hold countries accountable for the conventions they have signed onto.

With tool development and a five-country pilot to take place in 2015, RESULTS Educational Fund and its partners are currently conducting a public consultation on select RTEI tools until Friday, May 15th. The RTEI consultation provides an opportunity for the larger advocate and research community to provide direct feedback, particularly focused on the RTEI Questionnaire at this stage.

To provide a breadth of understanding on the project and aid in the solicitation of specific, actionable feedback, working drafts of the following RTEI tools or respective frameworks are available on the Right to Education Index page:

  • RTEI Background Paper: Provides a project overview, aims, and timeline.
  • Background to Indicator Selection: This document outlines the process of identifying and selecting indicators for inclusion in the draft RTEI Questionnaire. It includes RTEI Inclusion Criterion and addresses general concerns with index specificity and data availability. As it provides examples of how RTEI Indicator Criterion was applied to already-reviewed indicators, it is central to this consultation.
  • Draft RTEI Questionnaire: The Draft RTEI Questionnaire is the primary document for feedback at this time. Civil society partners will be supported to complete the questionnaire over a two-month period, collecting the information necessary to assess a country’s progress on various areas of the right to education. Information from the RTEI Questionnaire will be used to calculate overall RTEI results, providing country-specific results that act as indications as to how well a country respects, protects, and fulfills the right to education for its citizens. This draft in its current state represents an all-in-one document including the questionnaire, guide, and fillable forms. This draft also represents a comprehensive attempt to capture indicators/questions explicitly derived from the international right to education legal framework, anticipating that this consultation will serve to help further refinement.
  • Draft Framework for RTEI Analytic Handbook: This draft outlines the framework of the RTEI Analytic Handbook which will provide users with the means for interpreting overall index results as well as how the index can be flexibly used to draw attention to different themes, such as private education, girls’ education, income inequality, regional disparities, teachers, etc. For each theme, the Analytic Handbook will provide possible interpretations of the responses and potential leverage points to address if results are low. Although not the focus of this consultation, feedback on the framework is welcome.

To provide feedback during this consultation please follow the five step process outlined on the RTEI homepage. Additional questions, comments and feedback may be addressed to William Smith at wsmith@results.org. The consultation period ends Friday, May 15th.

Unleashing the Power of Nutrition

Steve Lewis, Head of Policy Advocacy, RESULTS UK, attended the launch of The Power of Nutrition in Washington yesterday. Here he explains why this new fund is so important.

The Power of Nutrition, a major new fund for nutrition  was launched in the World Bank yesterday. Driven by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), and supported by DFID and other major donors, the new fund aims to raise $1billion much needed funding by 2020. At yesterday’s event, attended by staff from RESULTS and the ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnership, CIFF announced that an initial $200 million is now available.

Power of Nutrition

Why is the New Fund Crucial?

161 million children around the world are stunted because of undernutrition. This means their cognitive development is impaired and their educational chances are almost certainly limited. Stunting limits the life chances of an individual but it also has a massive negative impact on economic growth of entire nations. “Undernutrition directly contributes to economic loss of up to 11% of GDP” explained Michael Anderson from CIFF at yesterday’s launch.

The launch of The Power of Nutrition is an important moment in efforts to build an improved global response to the silent tragedy of undernutrition.

The Power of Advocacy and Campaigns

In the last few years, RESULTS grassroots have been campaigning hard to increase attention to this neglected area.  Two years ago, major donors came together in London for Nutrition for Growth. Our grassroots played an important role ahead of the conference to ensure David Cameron played a key role in this conference; which resulted in a the UK Government committing £655 million in new funds to tackle undernutrition.

RESULTS grassroots also joined the IF campaign to demand ‘Enough Food for Everyone’, and through efforts, such as getting letters published in local media, meeting with MPs, taking part in marches in London and Belfast, they put pressure on the G7 leaders, to increase their focus on food and nutrition.

Speaking with World Bank staff before the launch it was acknowledged that this work has paid off. Tim Evans, Head of the World Bank Health, Nutrition and Population Programme stated that, “the awareness and advocacy campaign in the last year two years has been successful. What has lagged behind is implementation. It’s a new impetus of funding that is needed now.”

How Will The New Fund Work?

The new funding uses a matching approach. Initial donations are sourced from foundations and from the ultra-rich, with funds then matched by World Bank IDA and implementing agencies, such as UNICEF. Through this mechanism a donation of $10 million by one donor can be leveraged against other sources to result in actual funds for nutrition programmes which are 3 to 5 times greater.

“Investment in nutrition programmes is known to be one of the most cost-effective interventions”, said Keith Hansen, Head of Global Practices at the Bank.  “It’s fast working, within the first two years of life, and is irreversible. Some development outcomes can go backwards, due to natural disasters, or changes in policy for example… but a well-nourished child will always benefit, throughout their life, from a better start”.

Tanzania: The Impact of Funding Nutrition

IMG_1205I was especially happy to attend the launch because of the keynote speaker, Saada Mkuya Salum, Minister of Finance, Tanzania. Tanzania has been making significant progress on undernutrition.  After many years of stagnation, the number of stunted children is now declining: around 2.5% annually. Tanzania has a well-developed and integrated programme to work on undernutrition, with nine government ministries collaborating on a joint programme, with a senior coordinator operating from the Prime Minister’s office.

I visited Tanzania in 2013 with a RESULTS cross-party delegation of British MPs. We visited nutrition projects and to meet the Prime Ministers coordination unit. The UK MPs used their experiences in Tanzania to raise the profile of nutrition in the UK parliament since their return. Since our visit DIFD Tanzania have begun to fund a major nutrition programme. Listening to the Minister outlining progress in the country made me feel happy that little by little the world is waking up to the scandal of undernutrition.  And through initiatives such as Power of Nutrition, implementing agencies, NGOs and community groups should begin to have increased resources to reach those 160 million stunted children.

Want to find out more about the Power of Nutrition? Watch the launch event!

Nutrition Scorecard Launch: Driving Accountability and Future Commitments

 

Today, along with our global partners, we launch the ACTION Nutrition Donor Scorecard, an accountability tool for tracking Nutrition for Growth commitments.

Until recently nutrition has been relegated to the sidelines of development planning only taking centre stage at times of acute humanitarian crises. Yet with undernutrition behind 45% of all preventable child deaths worldwide this has been a neglected area of development for too long.

Continue reading

10 Reasons We Need to Tackle Hidden Hunger

Hunger is more than just not having enough to eat. Not getting enough essential vitamins and minerals leads to micronutrient deficiencies, or ‘hidden hunger’.
In an effort to make this form of undernutrition less hidden, here are ten things you might not know about micronutrient deficiencies:

Continue reading

Guest Blog Post: UK Aid saves lives by the minute – shouldn’t we be proud of that?

This is a guest blog post from Norwich Grassroots Group Leader Ann Marie Pointer. It first appeared in the Norwich Evening News on Wednesday, 25 March 2015.

One of the last bills to go through this Parliament will be the Foreign Aid bill. It will commit the UK to spending 0.7% of its Gross National Income (GNI) on Aid. It’s the first of the G7 nations to do this.

Think of GNI as the amount of money the government has to spend. 0.7% is like the money you find down the back of the sofa. Seven pence out of every £10 – doesn’t sound like a lot.  Yet when you hear the actual amount it does – £11.4 billion last year.

People get very agitated about foreign aid yet most know very little about it. Cuts to services in the UK bring the question – ‘What about the billions that leave our country and are spent by corrupt dictatorships in third world countries?’

The assumption being that:

a. This £11 billion could sort out the NHS/ welfare cuts etc. and

b. Foreign governments are corrupt.

Stop and think about b. for a moment.

The news is full of allegations of cover ups of sexual shenanigans of prominent people. Prospective election candidates are in the Sunday papers for dodgy dealings. And let’s not forget the MPs’ expenses scandal of a few years ago – moats and dovecotes anyone?  My point being that how can we can we berate others when our own establishment is far from squeaky clean. Tax avoidance, tax evasion, cash for questions, banks behaving badly. So when anyone says we shouldn’t be giving foreign aid to developing countries because they are corrupt I am reminded of the Biblical image of taking the beam out of your own eye before the splinter out of someone else’s. I’m not making excuses for it when it has happened to aid money. Corruption is wrong on every level and in every place but let’s stop being holier than thou about it. It’s no reason not to try to alleviate extreme poverty.

Let’s look at a.  There is a common consensus that the aid bill is so huge that it would make a huge difference if we kept it at home. Aid costs about £11 billion a year. A huge amount in numbers but a very small amount of GNI. The government spent in the region of £130 billion on the NHS in the last year. Social Security, £110 billion. Total government spending was in the region of £730 billion. The Daily Telegraph reported late last summer that drugs for diabetes were now costing £2.2 million per day. That’s how the money goes.

So what has our aid money been spent on? The Department for International Development are the people who administer aid money. They have been working with other nations since 2000 and in the last 15 years extreme poverty worldwide has been halved. Aid money is not just for emergencies. It goes to specific projects on health and education to name just two. Since the millennium your money has:

  • Immunized more than 55 million children.
  • Saved the lives of 50,000 women in pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Helped 10 million more women to access family planning.
  • Halved malaria deaths in 10 of the worst affected countries.

Check out the official DFID website and see exactly what it has achieved. Aid should be celebrated not hidden.

You may see aid as altruistic but on the other hand supporting nations to improve their health, education, governance and economies means that they are less likely to be places where extremism breeds. If we help them to make their lives better they are less likely to be our enemies!

Education for All Movement Launches 2015 Global Monitoring Report

Matt Cooper, volunteer with RESULTS working on education issues, reports on the launch of a major new global report…

Just one third of countries have achieved all the measurable Education for all goals

The 2015 Education for All Global Monitoring Report “Achievements and Challenges” was released today, and as its name suggests, it provides a complete overview of the progress made in education worldwide. By revisiting the goals created at the World Education Forum in April 2000, the GMR highlights the successes achieved and the points in which progress has been lacking.

Since the year 2000, 80 million more children are in school, and half of all countries achieved universal primary enrollment. While these are major achievements, the GMR also highlights several areas in which much more needs to be done to achieve Education for All.

Currently, there is a huge wealth discrepancy at play. Not only are the worlds poorest children less likely to be in school than their richer classmates, they’re five times less likely to complete it as well. This has expanded so rapidly that the gap between the rich and poor attending schools is twice as big as it was in the year 2000. This doesn’t just affect children either. The new report refers to adult literacy as a “neglected goal,” and shows that in sub-Saharan Africa, half of all women are illiterate. If the goal is to provide for a universally education population, these people cannot be ignored.

So what will it take to fix this problem? A drastic increase in finance, both foreign and domestic. The gap between the expenditure of developing country governments and the amount needed to achieve universal primary and lower secondary school enrollment post-2015 is projected to be $22 billion per year. In order to fill that, developing country governments must increase the proportion of their budgets devoted to education, and donors will need to quadruple the amount of aid going to these countries. Is that going to be difficult? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Without it, the report predicts that aid will continue to stagnate, and the progress that has been made so far will be in jeopardy.

If that increase in aid can be realized, the impacts will be widespread. The 4 million teachers that are needed to get all children into school could be trained and hired, the barriers keeping 121 million children and adolescents out of school could be removed, and the goal of Education for All could be realized.

You can read the full report, watch videos, see infographics and more at http://en.unesco.org/gem-report.

Join the conversation on Twitter! – #eduVerdict and @EFAReport and @resultsuk