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Bill Roedy

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Sport Relief's Push for Immunisation

Posted: 26/03/2012 14:10

People throughout the UK have come together in an extraordinary way in recent weeks for a cause greater than themselves. They literally are helping to repair the world through an extraordinary charity, Comic Relief, and its inspiring Sport Relief fundraising campaign.

The efforts of hundreds of thousands in the UK, from stars such as Miranda Hart and John Bishop to everyday people, are making a huge difference.

One of the issues Sport Relief is focusing on this year is child immunisation. I personally have seen in health clinics and villages throughout Africa the impact of these efforts. For just a few pounds, vaccines not only provide protection and save lives, but they also cut healthcare and treatment costs, help reduce poverty, boost local economies and contribute to political stability.

It's a small investment that reaps huge benefits as children grow to be healthy and live a productive life. Yet one in five children still don't have access to this life-saving protection and sadly every 20 seconds a child dies from a disease that could have been prevented with a vaccine.

This is why the funds raised through Sport Relief are so important. Another critical player in this effort is the private sector. Increasingly we are seeing that global health also means economic health and that vaccines produce a huge return on investment.

One of the recipients of this year's Sport Relief campaign is the GAVI Alliance, a cutting-edge international non-profit that has helped immunise 326 million children in more than 70 countries since it was founded in 2000. The support of GAVI and its partners has helped save more than 5.5 million lives.

GAVI has recently launched an innovative private sector programme that will make the Sport Relief campaign even more impactful. The GAVI Matching Fund welcomes contributions from companies, foundations, their customers, employees and business partners which are than 100% matched by the UK Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - a longstanding partner of Comic Relief.

This means that Comic Relief is able to make a £5 million grant toward child immunisation through GAVI, with £2.5 million raised through Sport Relief and £2.5 million matched by the Gates Foundation.

This combination of non-profit and private sector support led by the British public's extraordinary support to Comic Relief and the GAVI Matching Fund is quite an impactful way of addressing global health challenges.

The expansion of public and private efforts - especially in wealthy countries like the U.S - would mean that critical goals are reachable, such as GAVI's goal of immunising an additional 225 million children and saving 4 million lives by 2015. But it also would mean that entire villages, communities and nations can begin to engage more profitably in the global economy, standing strong thanks to a handful of effective and affordable vaccines.

Many private sector champions already have joined the efforts of U.K. charities such as Comic Relief, the ARK Foundation and the Children's Investment Fund Foundation as well as global multinationals - J.P. Morgan, Anglo American and "la Caixa". I look forward for others to do also.

They are proving that doing social good is also good business.