A promise is a promise

Dagfinn Hoybraten, Chair of the GAVI Board, at the Usa River Health Centre, Arusha, Tanzania.

We teach our children about the importance of keeping promises, but the best way to communicate this is by keeping our promises to them. In 2011,  my organization the GAVI Alliance, held its first-ever pledging conference in London, a historic meeting where we committed to help developing countries immunize an additional quarter of a billion children by 2015, and prevent 4 million future deaths in the process.

As Chair of the GAVI Alliance Board, I’m proud to say that midway through, GAVI is on track to keep those promises.

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While we may not be there yet, it is nevertheless a huge accomplishment and one that is not just measured in lives saved. Since 2011, GAVI has funded a total of 67 new vaccine introductions and campaigns. By 2014, all 73 GAVI-supported countries will have introduced 5-in-1 pentavalent vaccines, including introductions in a number of fragile states, such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Myanmar, Somalia and South Sudan.

The cost of new, priority vaccines, such as pneumococcal and rotavirus, has also fallen significantly thanks to GAVI, and this is speeding up the time it takes for new vaccines to reach those children most in need. When taken together, all this shows that in terms of their access to vaccines, the historic gap between low- and high-income countries is starting to close.

Photo credit: Developing countries around the world have much to learn from Bangladesh’s successful immunization program. 

This was made possible because at the pledging conference donors committed further funds towards GAVI’s work, bringing its total funds to 2015 up to $7.4 billion. They were willing to do this because they had seen what GAVI had already achieved and they believed in GAVI’s ambitious goals and its ability to realize them. At the end of the month these donors will come together again at GAVI’s Mid-Term Review, in Stockholm, where they will discuss the progress made and the challenges that lie ahead, as laid out in GAVI’s Mid-Term Review report.

But now with two years to go, there is indeed much left to do if we are to fulfill our promises. Some countries have had to postpone introductions of new vaccines because of global supply constraints or local capacity issues. Many regions also still need better systems for monitoring immunization data, and for transporting and storing vaccines. But we are getting there. In Ethiopia, in 2011, I got to see first-hand the difference that GAVI is making. And by meeting with parents, supply chain managers and health workers, I was deeply moved by their stories and the dedication I saw.

Such accounts have now been captured in a series of impact stories showing the extraordinary efforts being made by implementing countries and GAVI partners to ensure that vaccines reach the children who need them, wherever they are. These stories are about the people on the ground, the people who are the heart of what GAVI is doing.

I invite you to take a look and share in their personal stories and learn about the inspirational work they are doing to make a difference, so that we may all deliver on our promises.

To see more of GAVI’s life-saving work, visit their website here.