Apr 22nd, 2013 12:33 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Dr. K.O. Antwi-Agyei manages the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in Ghana, where he oversees the day-to-day work to ensure vaccines reach children across the country.
Ghana’s health care system has put a lot of its resources into vaccines. Why?
We can see a lot of achievements in reducing child deaths by investing in delivering vaccines. The returns are high, so the politicians and policy makers are convinced that it’s worth investing in vaccines. That is why at least every year within our budget we ensure that we pay for all our traditional vaccines.
Our communities have also been great because they embrace vaccination. They even testify that “Oh, our children used to die from measles. Now with vaccination, we don’t see measles.” And of course, they allow our staff into their homes. There is trust. We can now return to the communities with other vaccination campaigns. It’s marvelous.
What impact have vaccines had on the health of Ghana’s population?
Around 1974, immunisation coverage was around 1.6 percent. Today, well over 90 percent of our population is covered by immunisation services, reducing the burden of disease.
For example, measles used to be the number two killer of children. Now it’s no longer a cause of death for the past 10 years in Ghana. So a lot has been achieved through immunisations.
Last year, you were the first immunisation chief in Africa to simultaneously roll out two vaccines, one protecting children against pneumonia and the other against rotavirus. Why did you decide to do that and, and what was the result?
Our desire to reach the Millennium Development Goal to reduce childhood death was a very big motivating factor. Apart from malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea are the two highest killing diseases. So we thought, if there is no vaccine against malaria now, and there are vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhea, then it’s worth fighting. So we decided to fight the two together. We thought it would be difficult, but not an impossibility. And with careful planning, we could succeed.
How important are Ghana’s community health workers in delivering the vaccines?
They are very important. The front line health workers, they are in touch with the communities. They help improve our public health services, not only through vaccinations but also by treating minor illnesses offering family planning and providing other health-related services.
How does Ghana use data collection to improve immunisation coverage?
Data is used for making decisions. If your data is not good, then of course your decisions will also be faulty, and you won’t be able to achieve your objectives. So a lot of effort has gone into data reporting. We developed tally and register books for the basic level so that they are able to pick the necessary data on children vaccinated, and also on what vaccines have been used. We firmly believe that if you won’t use the data, then don’t collect it. So once we collect the data, we use it. If a region’s coverage is low, we immediately ask, “What is happening there?” We go and investigate and then give us feedback. Then, whatever the error is, we discuss it and correct it.
What is your long term goal for Ghana’s immunisation program?
To reach the top is difficult, but to remain at the top is even more difficult. For Ghana, our goal is to remain as a leader in the area of immunisation and to show our commitment and to develop initiatives which can spread to other areas. Whatever is happening in other countries has a bearing on us. We want to have success stories which can be shared so that together we can get rid of diseases which are killing our children and mothers.
This week is World Immunisation Week. Find out more about how ONE is supporting access to vaccinations.
Jan 30th, 2013 2:57 PM UTC
By Bill Gates
Today I am launching my Annual Letter. This year, I concentrate on the power of clear goals and accurate measurement–simple concepts really–to improve the lives of the poorest people around the globe. It may not be the sexiest of themes, but the proof of its impact is undeniable. The lives of the poorest have improved more rapidly in the last 15 years than ever before. During that time, the number of people living in extreme poverty has been reduced by half–extraordinary progress in a short period of time.
A core reason for that remarkable progress was the world’s commitment to setting clear goals and identifying the right measures to drive progress towards those goals. Since Melinda and I started our foundation, I’ve seen how powerful measurement can be used as a tool to guide our work for the world’s poor. When you do get it right, you can do powerful things. You know what’s working and can work on scaling the best solutions. You know what you’re doing wrong and can course-correct. And when you’re done, you can be confident of the impact of each intervention.
As it turns out, setting clear goals and finding the right measures are just as important for governments trying to figure out how to spend their aid budgets. As I say in the letter: “Historically, aid was largely discussed in terms of the total amount of money invested. Now that we’re more precisely measuring indicators like child mortality, people are able to see the impact aid has in stark terms—that it’s the difference between putting people on AIDS treatment or letting them die.”
Not only do clear goals and measures allow governments to spend their aid money more efficiently, it builds the political will to continue funding aid programs by proving how successful they are. It’s not just about governments giving other governments taxpayer money: it’s about one community helping another raise itself out of poverty.
The world can accomplish really big things when we unite around clear goals and develop the measurements to gauge progress. One of the best examples of how that works is the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that the UN set in 2000. The MDGs are a set of eight specific goals that are an unprecedented global effort to meet the needs of the world’s poorest by 2015. While we won’t reach all of the goals, the progress we’ve made toward each is staggering. The MDG target of reducing extreme poverty by half has been reached ahead of the deadline, as has the goal of halving the proportion of people who lack access to safe drinking water. 14,000 fewer children around the world are dying every day than in 1990. The number of mothers who die during childbirth has been reduced by almost 50 percent since the goals were set.
And that is what my letter is about. I hope that you’ll read it and engage with our first ever digital experience. Learn more, share it with your friends, and get involved by visiting billsletter.com.
Oct 15th, 2012 5:43 PM UTC
By Bill Gates
Bill Gates was in Europe last week for stops in London and Paris. He’s traveling part of the time with Bono to meet with government leaders and policy makers of countries that are key contributors to global health and development work. This piece was originally published on the Gates Notes blog.
I spent Wednesday in Paris, talking about the importance and effectiveness of foreign aid. My partner in many of those meetings was Bono, who has used his voice so effectively to advocate for development aid and the needs of the poorest people on earth.
By any estimation, my few days in Europe were off to a good start.
We spent the better part of the day meeting with senior French officials, including France’s new president, Francois Hollande, his finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, and their new Development Minister, Pascal Canfin.
We spent the better part of our first day of the trip meeting with senior French officials, including France’s new president, Francois Hollande.
France plays a critical role in encouraging the European Union to keep its commitments to overseas development assistance programs, particularly in the face of Europe’s economic difficulties. Its own commitment to foreign aid is a tremendous example to other donor countries. That was the context for our meetings.
President Hollande was clear he remains committed to aid, and that he is an advocate for both the effectiveness of foreign aid when it is carefully done, and the responsibility developed countries have in working with the developing world.
I’m very pleased with our meetings. They took place in spectacular surroundings, but the focus was on the poor. And that made for a very good first day in Europe.
President Hollande was clear that he remains committed to aid, and that he is an advocate for both the effectiveness of foreign aid when it is carefully done, and the responsibility developed countries have in working with the developing world. France has a remarkable history of support for Africa and for its assistance efforts around the world, with organizations like Médecins sans Frontières. The President also spoke about how aid can benefit both the recipient and donor countries.
France’s finance minister Pierre Moscovici made this point last month when he noted that Europe’s growth over the next 20 years will depend heavily on Africa’s growth and development. Ensuring that all Africans have a chance for a better future is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do from an economic standpoint.
We had a good exchange about getting the most out of every Euro of aid. I’m a big advocate for the incredible impact that investments in vaccines can achieve, and was very happy to hear the President specifically call out France’s commitment to staying involved with the Global Fund, which provides funding for programs to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria. France should be particularly proud in their leadership with the Global Fund. Their help is making a real difference in millions of lives around the world.
Support from leaders like President Hollande is critical to preserving those life-saving investments in aid and explaining why staying true to the EU goal of devoting .7% of national budgets to foreign aid is the right course.
Bono was very persuasive about the impact foreign aid is having, as well as the devastating consequences withdrawing it could have on poor countries, particularly in Africa.
I was really pleased with our meetings. They took place in spectacular surroundings (the Élysée Palace is a stunning example of French style and decoration). But the focus was on the poor, on both sides of the table. And that made for a very good first day in Europe.
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