21 April 2017

Africa: The Graca Machel Trust Joins the Global Call to Vaccinate and Ensure That No Child or Adolescent Is Left Behind

press release

Johannesburg — This call to action forms part of the World Immunisation Week from 24th to 28th April 2017

The Graca Machel Trust is urging all Africans to heed the call to get vaccinated as part of World Immunization Week, which kicked off today under the theme "Vaccines protect everyone, get vaccinated!" In the developing world, two of the leading causes of child mortality in children under five, pneumococcal pneumonia and rotaviral diarrhoea, are closely linked to a lack of effective immunisation. The Trust believes that the prioritisation of immunization for children under the age of five is critical for every child's right to survive and thrive. This age group is particularly vulnerable and key in the developmental stages of a child which is why it remains a focus constituency of the Trust's Children's Rights and Nutrition Programmes strategy for 2017-2021.

The Trust agrees with other global partners that that by immunizing, governments and communities can make an early human capital investment that will reap benefits for the future growth and development of the continent. Furthermore, expanding access to immunization will not only directly advance the health related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but ensure that a world in which no one-no child, no adolescent, no adult-is left behind. The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that when children are given a healthy start, communities thrive and economies grow stronger. Not only do vaccinations prevent the suffering and death associated with infectious diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, whooping cough, measles, and polio, they also help enable national priorities like education and economic development to take hold.

Immunization successful and cost effective intervention

Immunization has been shown to prevent between 2- 3 million deaths every year and has reduced morbidity and mortality across the world in a safe and cost-effective manner.

Vaccines provide benefits beyond health outcomes, including averted medical costs and reduced time spent by parents and health care workers caring for sick children. These savings accrue to families, communities and nations as improvements in education, economic growth and poverty reduction. One study reported that increased coverage of new and underutilized immunizations delivered in Gavi-eligible countries could deliver a rate of return on investment of 18% by 2020.

Africa scores firsts

A number of successes have been achieved on the immunisation of children in Africa. For the first time Heads of State from across Africa came together to adopt a Declaration on Universal Access to Immunization in Africa, where they endorsed the Addis Declaration on Immunization issued during the 28th African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Addis Declaration on Immunization calls for countries to increase political and financial investments in their immunization programmes. It includes 10 commitments, including increasing vaccine-related funding, strengthening supply chains and delivery systems, and making universal access to vaccines a cornerstone of health and development efforts.

The Addis Declaration on Immunization was signed by Ministers of Health and various line ministers at the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa (MCIA) in February 2016 in Addis Ababa. MCIA was the first-ever ministerial-level gathering with a singular focus on ensuring that children across the continent can access life-saving vaccines. This year marked the first anniversary of the conference.

Learning from and celebrating successes

Twenty years ago, Nelson Mandela launched the pan-African 'Kick Polio Out of Africa' campaign. At that time every single country on the continent was endemic to polio, and according to WHO statistics every year, more than 75 000 children were paralysed for life by this terrible disease. Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa noted in a recent statement that through the dedication of governments, communities, parents and health workers, "This disease is now beaten back to this final reservoir."

This progress could however be short-lived if countries do not take steps to ensure protection of their children. As Africa nears polio eradication, critical funding for immunization through the Polio Eradication Programme is expected to slow down. WHO however remains resolute, that as long as even one child in Africa lacks access to immunization, its work remains unfinished.

Ambitious vaccination programme targets millions of African children

And for the first time more than 190 000 polio vaccinators were recently deployed in 13 countries across West and Central Africa to immunize some 116 million children to tackle what UNICEF and WHO call, "the last remaining stronghold of polio on the continent". All children under five years of age in 13 countries - Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone - will be simultaneously immunized in a coordinated effort to raise childhood immunity to polio across the continent. It's the first kind ever immunisation campaign to be implemented in Africa.

World Immunisation week

The Graca Machel Trust calls on all African leaders, also joins the world in marking the immunisation week every third week of April. The 7th African Vaccination Week will be celebrated from 24 to 30 April 2017 with the theme "Vaccines protect everyone, get vaccinated!" #AVW17.

The Vaccination Week is an annual event celebrated during the last week of April in synchronization with the other WHO Regions and the World Immunization Week (WIW. It is led and coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa and implemented by countries. The goal of the AVW is to strengthen immunization programmes in the African Region by increasing awareness of the importance of every person's (particularly every child and woman) need and right to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

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