May 13th, 2013 4:19 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Our guest blogger today is the MTV Africa VJ, singer and activist from Tanzania, Vanessa Mdee. Writing as an ambassador for the GAVI Alliance, her post celebrates the recent news that the HPV vaccine to protect women and girls from cervical cancer is set to drop in price for 50 of the world’s poorest countries.
I’m trying to think of the first time my mother had ‘The Talk’ (yes the birds and the bees talk) with me. The talk that I’d heard my friends refer to as the most embarrassing moment of their lives, the talk that officially indicted you into teen-hood, the talk that signified your maturity – your parents decided you were old enough to speak of natural human interaction between a man and a woman. I’m still eagerly awaiting this talk.
Now don’t be fooled, my mother knows all too well that I’m aware of physical interaction. Not because I told her but because she’s got that sixth sense like all mothers do. Besides, I am of age and slightly adventurous (for lack of a better word).
I gather I never put my parents in a place where they felt the need to have this conversation with me. I did after all grow up in a Muslim turned every Sunday church-going Roman Catholic home – where I obviously wasn’t having sex. My parents were right – not because I was holier than the next but the mere thought of them finding out crippled me. You see, growing up in an African home as exposed and worldly as my upbringing was, meant certain things were not discussed. This remains the case to date. My line of work has allowed me to converse intimately with young African women and girls, and their stories are similar. Sex talk is a no go.
When I started DynamitesMission – my awareness blog sponsored by UNAIDS and MTV’s Staying Alive – I wanted to lend my voice and extend my ear to the streets. I was learning about grassroots organisations and their efforts to educate their communities. I was moved and in turn spoke from my perspective – pretty layman but clear to other laymen.
A year in, I get a BBM from one of my best friends Michelle. It read, ‘ You’re trying to tell me that above all the heartache we take from these men, they also pass HPV (the virus that causes cervical cancer) to us?’ – I chuckled and said ‘ Yes Elle, they do – talk about short end of the stick’. Many women are unaware of cervical cancer and HPV, mostly about how exposed we are to the virus through our everyday interaction.
My first personal encounter with cervical cancer was in my early teens. My aunt was diagnosed with it at a very late stage and when her health deteriorated I remember wondering what she had done to deserve this and why the meds weren’t working. I kept asking my father – why she wasn’t getting better. Only to properly understand the severity as she passed away after being bed ridden for two weeks.
When a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer in Tanzania there is a 70% chance she will not survive. Experts agree that the low survival rate is due to late diagnosis and treatment by a healthcare provider. It wasn’t until I was approached by GAVI that I found out that there now is a vaccine and that if administered early (before young women become sexually active) then we can ensure a brighter future for our women and decrease the numbers of cervical cancer cases.
Young women need to be aware of these opportunities that can be availed but most importantly the knowledge of HPV and cervical cancer – I truly believe these formative years will define their sexual reproductive health and nurture a generation of healthier women. It starts with open communication about sex and sexual reproductive health.
2013 is the beginning of a dramatic shift in women’s health. A record low price for a HPV vaccine has been negotiated by GAVI for the 50+ countries eligible for GAVI support (including my home country, Tanzania), opening the door for millions of girls in the world’s poorest countries to be immunized against a devastating women’s cancer.
This not only is the beginning of a shift in the overall eradication of cervical cancer but a new dawn for young African women around the continent. An opportunity that myself and many other young African women did not have.
It breaks my heart to see lives cut short due to ailments. In Africa these losses happen often and deprive our societies. It’s about time proper healthcare is administered for all, especially the future generation. GAVI is making this possible by pioneering the administration of the HPV vaccine. Giving my younger sisters a chance – that’s one less killer to worry about.
Find out more about the great news on the price drop for HPV vaccines on the GAVI Alliance website.
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.
Apr 18th, 2013 2:47 PM UTC
By Katri Kemppainen-Bertram
Today the GAVI Alliance announced that the cost of immunising millions of the world’s most vulnerable children against five deadly and debilitating diseases is set to fall, thanks to a major price reduction of one third for pentavalent vaccine.
Pentavalent vaccines target five infectious diseases (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and influenzae type B) in a single shot.
GAVI, which uses an innovative public-private partnership model to introduce new and affordable vaccines to children in particular in the poorest countries, secured a supply agreement with Biological E Ltd of India, which makes the five-in-one shot available to GAVI for just US$1.19 per dose, compared to the 2012 price of US$2.17.
By the end of the year, an additional 200 million children will be protected from five deadly diseases, and US$ 150mn will be saved over the next four years. By 2020, more than 7 million deaths can this way be averted.
Back in 2011, ONE members played an important part in ensuring that donors gave GAVI the funding it needed for its 2011-15 funding cycle. Having ensured this funding is a feat in itself, but the rewards – millions of lives saved – is an achievement worth celebrating. Thank you!
The announcement comes shortly before the Global Vaccine Summit that will be held in Abu Dhabi on 24-25 April, during World Immunisation Week. We’ll be sharing at the latest news from the summit next week, plus featuring stories from all our partners working on the front line of vaccinations around the world.
Apr 18th, 2013 11:27 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Today’s guest blogger is Stephen Brown, Campaigns Manager at Global Poverty Project UK.
A little under a month ago Britain became the first G8 country to spend 0.7% of its national income on aid and development. After years of campaigning this historic achievement was reached despite a domestic agenda of public sector cuts and high unemployment.
We can point to hundreds of people, moments, organisations and statistics that could claim some responsibility for making it all happen. But the greatest demonstration of ‘good aid’ must be the huge strides we’ve made in the eradicating diseases like the Poliovirus, which has been reduced by 99% and now exists in only three countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Right now, this week, we have a chance to go even further than just reducing the number of polio cases – we have the opportunity to completely eradicate the second-ever human disease in history.
The last time a child was paralysed in the Americas was over 20 years ago and Europe was declared polio-free in 2002. But this huge progress is threatened.
Next week, at the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Bill Gates, will host world leaders and representatives to announce new funding commitments that will help us rid the world of polio.
Failure to act on this plan and commitment could lead to an estimated 200,000 paralysed children a year within a decade. Nonendemic countries remain at risk for cases easily imported from the remaining countries so immunisation must continue everywhere to ensure that polio is eradicated worldwide. It is now a leadership question of political will and public pressure.
Countries like the UK, US and Canada have been huge supporters of polio eradication so far and whilst many of them recognise the significance of the opportunity before us, we are yet to hear any firm funding commitments. If we are to finish the job, we must exert some public pressure and call for multi year commitments from each. If countries like the UK, for example, commit to five years of funding experts are confident that will unlock other contributions and take us down the path of complete eradication.
At the Global Poverty Project we’re working with our global partners, including the ONE Campaign, to make enough public noise around polio – in the hope this will convince the UK government and others to commit to making polio the first disease to be eradicated in the 21st century – a fantastic legacy for our aid spending.
The world is only a few cases away from killing polio forever. Help make it happen by signing The End of Polio Petition calling on world leaders to finish the job by making funding commitments that will see a polio-free world.
Apr 7th, 2013 8:00 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
This post is by Katri Kemppainen-Bertram, ONE’s Policy Associate on Global Health.
Today is World Health Day and this year’s theme is high blood pressure – not something you often hear about at ONE.
It’s an issue that is mostly seen as a rich world disease, whereas infectious diseases (such as HIV, tuberculosis or malaria) are associated with developing countries. However, health issues like heart disease, cancer, asthma or diabetes (so-called non-communicable diseases, or NCDs) are also on the rise in Africa.
By 2030, NCDs are projected to be the main cause of death in Africa. So inevitably, they will represent a growing set of challenges for the global health community and the world’s poorest countries.
Today is also a time to for us to reflect on some immense achievements that have been accomplished in global health in the past years. Coinciding with the last 1,000 days before the 2015 expiration date of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we should think about we’re heading in the years – and decades – to come.
Many of the current MDGs focus on the most pressing health challenges in the developing world such as AIDS, TB, malaria, and maternal and child deaths. ONE has just published a report on how far we have come on those goals– and how we can sprint to the finish line in 2015.
Sprinting to 2015 is vital, but people working on development – and people living in developing countries, will not stop then. A second date looms in the future: 2030, the target date for the next MDGs. A change in disease burden around the world – and how we are able to combat these health problems – is part of what is currently being discussed. What is realistically achievable – in a cost-effective way that targets those most in need – poses another set of questions.
Each sprint, and every long race, consists of many, many single steps. Our health challenges and the work we do to combat them may look different in two years or two decades, but fighting to significantly reduce or even eradicate deaths from both infectious and non-communicable diseases will inevitably be an important global effort for years to come.
Dec 6th, 2012 2:12 PM UTC
By Malaka Gharib
Malaka Gharib is currently at the GAVI Partners Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where global health and government leaders are gathering to explore ways to accelerate results, innovation, sustainability and equity in the field of immunization.
What do you think one of the biggest issues in vaccines and immunizations is? That’s an easy one, right? Making sure that every country in the world has access to vaccines, of course!
Well, actually, we achieved universal child immunization – way back in 1990. Thanks to collaboration between WHO, UNICEF, countries and suppliers, a system was put in place to bring immunization coverage to nearly 80 percent of the global birth cohort. And it’s a system that’s worked well for a long time.
But now, that system is breaking down. The GAVI Alliance reports that 9 of the 24 countries in which they operate have poor vaccine stock management and vaccine distribution. And more than 20 percent of the GAVI countries’ vaccines go to waste above the expected rate.
It’s not hard to see why. The introduction of new vaccines and increased coverage targets is putting “business as usual” at risk. Since the 1980s, kids need 3 times more vaccine doses per child and there are 2.5 times more diseases to vaccinate. Looking into the future, experts believe that we’ll need 4 times more fridges (vaccines need to stay cold) between 2001 and 2020.
The conversation now is about how to make the system better, how to make transport of vaccines more reliable, and how to protect and preserve vaccines. The solution that experts are proposing is a clear one: countries need to take ownership of their vaccine supply chain (also called the “cold chain,” since vaccines are temperature-controlled). And they need to be super creative about it, because every country has its own situation and infrastructure – it can’t be a one-size-fits all strategy.
I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to supply chain experts like Michel Zaffran from the World Health Organization, Dmitri Davydov from UNICEF and Dr. Bruce Lee from the University of Pittsburgh, and country health officials from Benin, Tanzania and Uganda discuss this issue at the GAVI Partners Forum yesterday. I was particularly interested in listening to some of the innovative ways that countries were tackling some of the challenges with their vaccine supply chain.
- Hon. Huda Oleru from Uganda’s Parliamentary Forum for Immunization, says that they’re using an SMS tool called U-Report to crowdsource problems with the vaccines distribution system from Ugandan citizens. She says that her team is using the feedback to learn about some of the holes in the Ugandan supply chain – and fix them.
- Dr. Bruce Lee leads the team that developed a software called HERMES, a computational tool to design, plan and manage vaccine supply chains. What’s neat about it is that it can even predict estimated future needs, which will help in reducing vaccine wastage, stock outs and problems with storage. Currently, it’s being tested in Benin, Thailand and Niger.
- The World Health Organization, GAVI, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are finding that the cold chain itself is a barrier to routine immunizations – and it’s not getting the funding it needs. The world needs to invest more in cold chain hardware, like fridges and packaging. And there’s some cool stuff that they’re looking at on the horizon, including solar-powered fridges and vacuum insulation that lasts for up to 30 days.
ONE members fought hard last year to make sure that world leaders gave GAVI the funding it needed for their pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines – and we succeeded. But now, it’s up to countries to ensure that these much-needed vaccines actually get to the people who need it most. There will be more vaccines to distribute and more people to immunize in the future – and if countries can find the holes now, strengthen their supply chain and invest in technologies, we can achieve GAVI Board Chair Dagfinn Hoybraten’s one wish for the world: “that the children may live.”
Follow @ONEinAfrica and #GAVIPartners for live tweets from the GAVI Partners Forum.
Sep 24th, 2012 5:42 PM UTC
By Adrian Lovett
UK media reports over the weekend were critical of UK aid money that is spent via Europe. But in the stories many facts about EU aid have been overlooked. At ONE we fight for smart aid to help the poorest people lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Aid from the European Union is increasingly just that. More and more of it is smart aid that saves lives and we should protect it.
So to correct some of the myths, here my top ten facts about EU aid and the reasons we need to support it:
We’re not saying everything in the world of aid is perfect, nor that aid is all that’s needed to overcome poverty. And we also know there are lots of views about how big the EU should be, how big its total budget should be and so on. That debate is not for us. Our argument is simple: aid from Europe is good and getting better. It’s a tiny proportion of total spending. It’s helping save lives. It should be protected.
May 2nd, 2012 3:32 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
This piece by Bill Gates, Sr. was originally published on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog.
When my wife was pregnant with our first child, one of the worst polio epidemics in history was tearing through the United States. When my daughter was born, I was excited to be a new father, but I was also terrorized by visions of my newborn daughter confined by an iron lung, so much so that I didn’t let her drink from water fountains, or go for a swim.
But then, when she was two years old, the world’s first polio vaccine was released. In just a few short years, the disease virtually disappeared from our country. As a new father, I was more than relieved. Being able to vaccinate my children meant that they would have the chance to live healthy, productive lives.
To put it simply, vaccines work. Vaccines give children a healthy start in life and to build more prosperous, communities. And nowhere is that more evident than in Honduras.
I just returned from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where I went to help celebrate the launch of a very special event. World Immunization Week is the first global campaign led by the WHO to unite all countries in a push towards vaccination.
Personally, I could not have been happier to be celebrating a global effort to promote vaccination in a country that is such a model for success. Honduras is one of the most impoverished countries of this hemisphere. The country faces numerous economic and development challenges, yet it boasts among the world’s highest rates of vaccination: almost 98%. That’s a rate higher than the US and the United Kingdom.
The theme of this year’s inaugural World Immunization Week was “Vaccines are an Act of Love.” Vaccines prevent nearly 3 million deaths each year. For me, that is the best proof that they are an act of love. And as a father, I’ve actually experienced first-hand how big an act of love they actually are.
Honduras is showing the world how a strong and committed government can lead to lasting improvements for the health of its children. Honduras is showing the world that where there is dedication and passion, children can be given a chance to thrive. Honduras is showing that no matter the challenges a country faces, it can still use vaccines to deliver great impact for all its citizens.
At San Felipe Hospital, in the heart of Tegucigalpa, I was able to administer polio and rotavirus vaccine on a newborn baby. In many ways it made me feel like a hero. Mostly though, it reminded me of the relief I felt when I was able to give my own children vaccines. It was both comforting and empowering to know that the little baby I met, even for a brief moment, would be forever changed. And much of that is because he was lucky enough to be born in a country that is doing so much for its people, a country that is a global leader in immunization.
Honduras’ approach to immunization is delivering real results for children there. And through its efforts, it is proving again and again, that vaccines are an act of love. For that, I would like to extend to all Hondurans a heartfelt “Gracias.”
Bill Gates Sr. guides the vision and strategic direction of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and serves as an advocate for the foundation’s key issues.
Apr 27th, 2012 5:46 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
By Awa Marie Coll-Seck, minister of Health and Social Action of Senegal, and Guillaume Grosso, director of ONE France.
For World Immunization Week, all global health and development actors decided to take part in the mobilization initiated by the World Health Organization to give a boost to vaccines coverage through the world.
Celebrated across five continents, this year’s mobilization, with the slogan “Protect the world — get vaccinated,” is an opportunity to remind us that vaccination can prevent each year between 2 and 3 million deaths.
If it is a question of looking at the glass at half full, we can only be delighted by the progresses recently registered worldwide. The report is simple: the rate of vaccine coverage is increasing and touching more and more children every year. In just 2010, an estimated 109 million children less than 1 year old have been administered three doses of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine.
New vaccines are available in developing countries, which were — until now — non-existent or under-used, allowing to fight the first two causes of infant mortality in the world: pneumococcus and rotavirus, which are the origin of the main causes of pneumonia and acute diarrhea.
This success would not have been possible without GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, which mobilized the necessary funds to accelerate the access to new and under-used vaccines in developing countries. For example, Senegal was recently approved for the introduction of the vaccine against the pneumococcus, joining the 46 countries supported by GAVI that were approved for the same vaccine since 2010. The impact of the international community¹s effort towards immunization is henceforth tangible.
The pessimists, and maybe the realists, will also see the glass half empty. We still estimate today at 1.7 million the number of children who died from a disease that should be avoidable through vaccination, before having reached their fifth birthday — a daily scandal that takes place in the biggest silence.
Finally, and this is a paradox, looking at all the successes registered, some parents and health care professionals think that vaccination is not necessary anymore, and is no longer a sanitary urgency. Thus some countries see their vaccinal cover decrease and the resurgence of diseases such as diphtheria, measles and poliomyelitis.
This dynamic has quite an echo in France where the rates for vaccine coverage for vaccines such as measles remain insufficient. This lack of vaccination should be addressed shortly.
This is the direction that we, NGOs, governments and actors in health and development wish to look for this immunization week: celebrating the successes without easing up the effort.
This piece was originally published on the Huffington Post France.
Apr 27th, 2012 10:42 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
The following is a guest blog from GAVI Alliance Board Chair Dagfinn Høybråten, as part of global immunisation week.
I had the chance to help protect a life today, the life of a little girl named Madeleine Isaac.
My part was brief and ceremonial, squeezing out two drops of polio vaccine. Madeleine made a funny face and then sat up from her mother’s lap and smiled.
The part played by Madeleine’s mother was immeasurable. Those two drops of vaccine will protect her little girl for life and help ensure that their nation – Haiti – remains polio-free.
The mother’s effort to bring Madeleine to the Palais Municipal de Delmas to be vaccinated, amid the cacophony of traffic and people in the heat of Port-au-Prince, was remarkable. It was, as our partner PAHO describes for its broader immunisation campaign, “an act of love for you, me and everyone.”
That also is why the ceremony itself also was important. It marked the launch of World Immunization Week (WIW) and the tenth anniversary of Vaccination Week in the Americas. WIW builds on nine years of ever-growing Vaccination Week regional campaigns that have led to the vaccination of more than 365 million people.
This has been led by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), and strongly supported by other key GAVI partners, such as UNICEF. This year, more than 180 countries are participating in WIW, including 45 countries and territories in the Americas, where 44 million people are expected to be immunised.
I was in Haiti to represent GAVI’s participation in WIW, which began on Saturday with the intensification of a vaccination campaign against measles, rubella and polio by Haiti’s Ministry of Health.
That is how I came to cross paths with Madeleine, whose mother had brought her to the ceremonial kickoff because it included a free immunisation clinic. It provided a tangible symbol of Haiti’s remarkable leap in public health just two years after its devastating earthquake.
And Haiti is going further. In late spring, it also will roll out pentavalent vaccine in partnership with GAVI to help protect its children from five other deadly diseases.
As a former minister of health for Norway, I salute Haiti’s leaders for making child health a top-priority. Their commitment to routine immunisation services will create a backbone that supports the rest of society as Haiti rebuilds.
GAVI has been a partner with Haiti for more than 10 years, helping to bolster its immunization services. In addition to pentavalent vaccine, GAVI has approved Haiti’s plan to provide vaccines against the two leading causes of child deaths worldwide: pneumonia and rotavirus.
It is an honour that GAVI can play a role in Haiti’s rebirth. When I see the faces of children such as Madeleine, I see the future of Haiti and appreciate the lasting difference that immunisation makes.
I know that it was through a mother’s act of love that my path crossed that of Madeleine. GAVI’s mission is to multiple that act of love millions of times over.
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
The content of each post and each comment represents the views of that author and does not necessarily reflect the views of ONE. ONE does not support or oppose any candidate for elected office, and any post expressing support or opposition for a candidate is not endorsed by ONE.