GAVI (The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations) is the organisation that provides the practical programmes that take immunisations to those children who do not have easy access to them. One-in-five children in the world have no immunisations at all. A shocking statistic; unsurprisingly, these children are mostly those who are born in some of the world's poorest countries. GAVI's work is essential in reaching children in these countries, where healthcare is not something that can be taken for granted.
Diptheria, whooping cough and Tetanus are just three of the killer-diseases that children in the UK are routinely immunised against. We are fortunate to have easy access to a comprehensive programme of immunisations via our local clinic or GP's surgery. Even if our children do become ill, we do not need to worry about whether we can afford to have them treated. We can just turn up at the surgery and the GP will examine our offspring, reassure us and prescribe the drugs necessary to fight whatever infection they have picked up.
In poorer countries, healthcare is not so easily accessible, so if a child in a far-flung corner of a developing country picks up an infection, they are far more likely to die. And these children do die, from preventable diseases, every single day; over two-million of them, every single year.
In a country such as Mozambique, where one-in-ten children do not reach their fifth birthday, the work done by GAVI is essential. It is not only about getting the vaccines. Drug companies can produce them, albeit for a profit, and it was a welcome move when two of the biggest drug companies, Merck and Glaxosmithkline lowered the cost of the vaccines they produce, making them more affordable for countries in the developing world. This helps GAVI to direct funds to the other areas of the programme, costs that we may not realise are fundamental to the immunisation programme.
A campaign for food for malnourished children is easy to understand, a campaign for clothing and essential supplies in a disaster-struck area is obvious. For GAVI, the vaccines are just one element of their work. When I visited Mozambique earlier this month, I saw first hand, the vaccines being delivered and administered to babies who had been brought to outreach clinics by their mothers. Some had travelled over 40 kilometres and waited for over four hours to have their baby examined, weighed and immunised. These women knew the value of the vaccinations their babies were receiving, they had received the necessary information and advice, they were also, despite their long journeys and waiting, fortunate enough to have relatively accessible healthcare.
It was incredibly positive, I and the other Mums who had travelled with Save the Children, saw the system working well. Motorbikes and Outreach Workers, transporting the life-saving vaccines to remote areas, on bumpy roads and sandy tracks, taking healthcare to the villages with no transport or electricity. It is only through the dedication of these people, that the children we met can avoid becoming part of the statistic for infant mortality. A threat that is so real and so preventable.