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24 February 2024

$100m pledged for children's vaccine

By Wam

A total of $100 million (Dh367million) have been pledged by General Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to provide life-saving vaccinations to children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The partnership commits a total of $100 million ($50 million from each partner) for the purchase and delivery of vital vaccines that will save Afghan and Pakistani children and prevent diseases for a lifetime.

"This donation is another important step of the ongoing work that has been championed by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Like other children, the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan deserve the quality of health and opportunities that childhood immunisation can provide," said Shaikh Mohammad.

Children in Afghanistan and Pakistan are especially vulnerable to preventable diseases such as polio and pneumonia. Challenges in reaching them include conflict in the region, inadequate health services and immunisation levels among provinces in the countries and, in the case of Pakistan, a slow recovery from last year's devastating floods.

"Vaccines protect children from many life-threatening diseases, provide the best way to give them a healthy start," said Bill Gates, co-chairperson of the foundation.

"This partnership is a powerful example of how collaboration by the global community can help build a healthier, more stable future for Afghan and Pakistani children, their families and communities."

One in four children in Afghanistan does not survive to see his or her fifth birthday, making infant and under-five mortality rates in that country among the world's highest.

Of the total funds, two-thirds will be given to the GAVI Alliance for the purchase and delivery of the pentavalent vaccine and for the introduction of the new pneumococcal vaccine in Afghanistan. These vaccines help protect children under five from life-threatening diseases, including pneumonia, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type B (HiB), which causes meningitis.

The remaining $34 million of the allocated funds will be directed to the World Health Organisation and Unicef to deliver polio vaccines in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Although 99 per cent of polio has been eradicated worldwide in the past 20 years, Afghanistan and Pakistan are two of only four countries where polio transmission has never been stopped. To date, there has been a cycle of re-infection of this disease between the population of these two countries.

The partnership will result in the immunisation of approximately 5 million children in Afghanistan against six deadly diseases, and will help WHO and Unicef workers reach approximately 35 million children in Afghanistan and Pakistan with oral polio vaccines.

According to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), the partnership will hopefully inspire other philanthropists to invest in childhood immunisation programmes.

"Private donations like this sends a clear signal to our government donors that they are not alone in seeing the value of immunisation. If we are to fulfil our promise to all children, the GAVI Alliance needs to raise an extra $ 3.7 billion for immunisation in the run up to 2015. We hope this commitment will inspire all concerned to invest even more to save and protect young lives," said Dagfinn Hoybraten, chairperson of the GAVI Alliance board.