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Opinion: We need global solidarity in health more than ever before


Dr. Richard Sezibera is the former Health and Foreign Minister of Rwanda.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is set to double by 2050. Already, 60% of the population is below the age of 25. This is a huge opportunity for our continent, but it can also be a ticking bomb if we don’t invest and harness the power of this demography.

What better ways are there than to start investing in them from an early age? Primary health care should remain our biggest priority. If the right investments are put in place, a healthy child will grow up to contribute to economic growth. Vaccines are the first step to ensure the health of any human being.

Despite tremendous gains over the past 20 years, 1 in 10 children still miss out on life-saving vaccines. The World Health Organization also estimates that illness and deaths due to vaccine-preventable diseases cost sub-Saharan Africa US$13 billion each year with immunisation coverage stagnating at 72%, exposing populations to vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks.

There is an urgent need to reiterate the importance of increasing immunisation efforts and boosting domestic financing and implementation.

One simple tool

Every child deserves to have equal opportunities and protection against killer diseases like pneumonia, measles, and polio. This only takes one simple tool – immunisation.

Africa will continue to work towards the goals we set for ourselves in Abuja in 2001 to increase funding for health to 15% of our total budget. Although Africa will continue to double its efforts, we have to recognize that we need the support of our friends and partners. We need all hands on deck to ensure the future of the next generation.

As a former Gavi board member, I have seen firsthand how the organisation has played a tremendous role in saving the lives of millions of kids. Gavi is a global health partnership of public and private sector organisations dedicated to “immunisation for all”.

Since its creation in the year 2000, more than 13 million lives have been saved globally. For every dollar spent on immunisation, US$54 are gained in economic benefits as vaccines boost development both through direct medical savings and indirect economic benefits of people living longer and healthier lives. If this doesn’t convince us, I don’t know what will.

As Gavi marks its 20-year anniversary, Gavi will also host its third replenishment conference on 3-4 June 2020 in London.

The conference will seek to mobilize at least US$7.4 billion to protect the next generation with vaccines, reduce disease inequality, and foster a healthier, safer, and more prosperous world. Recent replenishments have shown that when there’s global solidarity, everything can be achieved.

We are living in very challenging times, but the global coronavirus outbreak reminds us that health must remain a global priority as it affects all of us. We cannot afford to miss this important rendezvous with history.

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