THE GAVI Alliance has hailed Rwanda for its effort in increasing access to vaccines and higher immunisation coverage.
The GAVI Alliance (formerly The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) is a public-private global health partnership committed to saving lives of children through increased access to immunisation.
Rwanda was among the 13 countries that were presented with awards at the GAVI Partners' Forum hosted by the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, and a Tanzanian radio host, TajiLiunn, in Dar es salaam, Tanzania, on Friday.
According to Dr. Claver Kayumba, the Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Rwanda won three awards at the event.
The first award was for the successful introduction of new vaccines, which include pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines.
The country was also recognised for the co-financing and sustainability of the immunisation systems. Kayumba explained that GAVI pays for some of the vaccines and the government contributes a certain amount to access vaccination.
However, Rwanda exceeded the expected amount in order to acquire more vaccines, the reason why the country received the second award.
Government spends $2million on vaccines every year as part of its commitment to fight preventable diseases.
"The third award was in recognition of the reduction in child mortality, under Millennium Development Goal 4 ( MDG4). Rwanda was the only country awarded in this category. We have invested in vaccination. The biggest number of children in Rwanda access immunisation . This has helped in achieving MDG4,"he said.
Rwanda hit its MDG4 target on child mortality, according to a report from UNICEF. Child mortality rates in the country reduced from 156 deaths per 1000 children to 54 deaths per 1000 children born annually, reflecting a two-thirds reduction.
Kayumba said that GAVI's recognition of Rwanda's efforts in improving the health of its population is a motivation to work even harder, to ensure that every Rwandan has access to proper health services.
In a recent interview, the head of Vaccine Preventable Diseases in the Ministry of Health, Maurice Gatera, said that at least 97 per cent of children under the age of one receive polio vaccination.
The last polio cases in Rwanda were reported in 1993 and no new cases have been registered since.
In 2002, there was vaccination for Hepatitis B and influenza.
Since 2008, children in Rwanda have been receiving vaccination with over 11 diseases being vaccinated against, according to Gatera.
In 2009, Rwanda was also one of the first developing countries to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine to prevent pneumonia, according to UNICEF.
According to the 2010 Demographic Health Survey, immunisation coverage in Rwanda stands at 90 per cent now.
The country now has added two more vaccines; Rotavirus and HPV to prevent against diarrhea and cervical cancer diseases.
The other countries that were awarded include Bangladesh, Honduras, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Ghana, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Haiti, Bolivia, Mongolia and Solomon Islands.
The awards recognised specific achievements in each country, from improvements in routine immunisation to the impact of disease-specific programmes.
Madagascar and Nicaragua received awards for best performance in routine immunisation.
Afghanistan won the award for civil society commitment, recognising a true spirit of partnership with civil society in immunisation service delivery for tangible results.
Malawi received an award for equity, having demonstrated increased equity in vaccine coverage between males and females, boys and girls.