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The best thing the Coalition is doing: Protecting 250 million people from killer diseases

By Tim Montgomerie
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This Coalition is doing many important things. Eradicating the deficit. Reforming welfare. Freeing schools. Controlling immigration. But, in historic terms, the efforts to vaccinate at least 250 million people stand out. Even many aid sceptics agree that if you are going to spend money fighting global poverty, the once-in-a-lifetime vaccination of children is about the best thing that can be done.

Earlier today David Cameron gave his first big speech on international development (after addressing the subject in an OpEd for yesterday's Observer). The Prime Minister made the speech at a London gathering of GAVI; the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation. Bill Gates described the commitment that Britain was making as "absolutely fanastic".

Highlights of the Prime Minister's speech are pasted below. He set out the specific benefits of Britain's commitment to GAVI and also made wider points about the need for the private sector to lead the overall fight against global poverty.

The personal reality of failing to vaccinate:Tabitha Muikali is thirty-two years old. She lives in Kibera, a slum in Nairobi. Last year, her eldest son John contracted pneumonia. For a month, he lay in agony, battling the disease. It was a fight, ultimately, that he did not win. He died aged just one. Someone like John dies every twenty seconds. Three times a minute a mother like Tabitha will see her entire world fall apart. Today we have a chance right here, right now, to change that.”

The huge numbers that can be saved if we do vaccinate: “If – as I hope and expect– we reach or exceed GAVI’s target of US $3.7 billion over the next five years we will protect at least a quarter of a billion children against killer diseases and save 4 million lives. Think about that. A quarter of a billion children protected from disease. Four million lives saved. In this world, where countries are tackling deficits and more than ever before the emphasis is quite rightly on getting value for money, what greater value for money can there be.”nt:

GAVI involves the drugs companies and private donors as well as government: “GAVI is quite simply a great organisation. It was set up by people who wanted to do aid in a different way. And to my mind that is exactly what it has achieved. GAVI was one of the very top performers in our root-and-branch review of the agencies that deliver with British aid. Why? Because it delivers tangible results – saving lives with excellent value for money. How? First, it brings together national governments, private companies and donors, with the mechanisms they need to deliver vaccines to children. Second, GAVI uses innovative finance to generate additional sources of revenue for vaccines. And third it pools demand - creating strong buying power to drive down the cost of vaccines. Only last week the Serum Institute and Panacea Biotec agreed to lower prices for the life-saving pentavalent vaccine, which protects against five deadly diseases. And GlaxoSmithKline offered the rotavirus vaccine to GAVI at $2.50 per dose – cutting the lowest available price by more than two-thirds. As a result of all this, over a decade, GAVI has helped prevent 5.4 million deaths and immunise more than 288 million children in 72 of the world’s poorest countries. That in my view is a record worth investing in.”

The extent of the UK taxpayers' commitment to GAVI: “In addition to our existing support for GAVI we will contribute £814 million pounds of new funding up to 2015. This will help vaccinate over 80 million children and save 1.4 million lives. That’s one child vaccinated every two seconds for five years.  One child’s life saved every two minutes. That is what the money the British taxpayer is putting in will achieve. And £50 million of our contribution is matched funding to incentivise further private sector donations.”

Under the Conservatives, the private sector will lead the way in fighting global poverty:No country has ever pulled itself out of poverty through aid alone. So this Government is taking a new approach.  The same conditions create prosperity the world over. They include access to markets, property rights, private sector investment and they make up what I see as the golden thread of successful development. Ultimately it is the private sector that will be the engine for growth. That is why this government’s efforts will increasingly focus on helping developing countries to achieve private-sector led growth with the jobs and opportunities it will bring. Already, Andrew Mitchell has created a new private sector department in DFID to bring private sector DNA into government, and use government know-how to create the right environment for business. We will also use all of our diplomatic and aid levers to support the creation of an Africa Free Trade Area - one of the most significant potential achievements that this government can help with.”

The UK economy and our security benefits from aid spending: “If we invest in Africa, open trade corridors and remove obstacles to economic growth it’s not just Africa that will grow but us too. And if we invest in countries before they get broken we might not end up spending so much on dealing with the problemds: whether that’s immigration or new threats to our national security. Take Afghanistan. If we’d put a fraction of our current military spending on Afghanistan into helping Afghanistan develop 15 or 20 years ago just think what we might have been able to avoid over the last decade.”

Britain can stand taller in the world because of our aid budget: I actually think that most people in our country want Britain to stand for something in the world. To be something in the world. When I think about what makes me proud of our country, yes, I think of our incredibly brave service men and women… Yes, I think of our capabilities as an economic and diplomatic power. But I also think of our sense of duty to help others. That says something about this country. And it’s something we should be proud of.”

> Read the whole speech via the Number 10 website.


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