THE BLOG

For Me, Government Action on Global Health Is Personal

06/11/2014 11:23 GMT | Updated 05/01/2015 10:59 GMT

When I became a parent for the first time, I expected the sleepless nights, the horror nappies, the priceless moments. I didn't expect to find myself standing in an intensive care hospital ward watching our newborn daughter fight for her life because of a sudden kidney infection. I didn't expect to have to listen to a doctor telling my wife and me that he couldn't say whether she would make it or not. At that moment, I didn't care about first birthday parties, first steps, first boyfriends, first jobs. I just wanted her to be OK. That's all.

Thankfully, because of the great care she had, her own extraordinary strength, and a degree of luck, she recovered. Within a couple of weeks she came home from hospital and she's never looked back. But as parents, of course, we do. We notice the threats our kids navigate each day, from spots appearing overnight as they sleep, to cars appearing from nowhere as they cross the road... Over and over, we just want them to be OK, and we count our blessings that - usually - they are.

For some parents, without adequate health care for their kids and the vaccines that can protect them against deadly threats like diarrhoea and pneumonia, that hope is far more fragile. Last year more than six million children around the world died before their fifth birthdays. Nearly all of these deaths were preventable - caused by diseases that should be minor, but are deadly in the world's poorest countries.

Vaccines are some of the lowest-cost, highest-impact ways to reduce preventable child deaths, and yet today nearly one in five children around the world do not have access to this life-saving care. That's where Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, comes in. A partnership of governments, private sector and global health specialists such as the World Health Organisation, Gavi draws together expertise and resources from a wide pool.

And it gets results. Gavi provides life-saving vaccines in more than 70 of the world's poorest countries. It's seen 440 million children immunised and more than six million lives saved since 2000. It takes a practical approach to its task and goes the extra mile to reach those who might miss out, making sure that girls don't fare worse than boys, ensuring for example that female as well as male vaccinators are used wherever that's appropriate. Gavi is also rated as one of the most transparent development players, scoring high on value for money. No surprise that the UK government has backed it strongly, providing one-third of its funds the last time pledges were made in 2011. It's hard to imagine a better use of British aid money.

But future progress isn't a given. Gavi needs a fresh injection of funds to continue this success story. In January, leaders will gather in Berlin to decide on how much they will provide for Gavi's work between 2016-2020. For an additional $7.5 billion, Gavi will be able to immunise an additional 300 million children and save 5-6 million lives. If donors give less, some of those children will miss out and as a result, some will not make it. It's a pretty straightforward calculation.

At ONE, we're working very hard to urge all governments to do their part. The good news for the UK is that others are stepping up, so the UK's share of the cost can fall a little. For a contribution of £1.2 billion over the next five years, averaging just £8 per year for each UK taxpayer, British support could save 1.5 million lives. What can be the argument for doing less?

Gavi doesn't just help the children it vaccinates and the parents it reassures. It shows that by working together, incredible results can be achieved. Now it's up to all governments, especially those who have led the way like the UK, to step up again so that children get the basic care they need. My daughter, who fought her way through her first fifteen days or so of life, will enter her fifteenth year in 2015. I know she's going to be OK. I want every parent to be able to say the same.