Baroness Benjamin, OBE is a UNICEF UK Parliamentary Champion. She is supporting a global health summit being hosted this week by the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and the GAVI Alliance.
Rahul, 15 months old, with his mother in Bhabanipur village, Sunamganj in Bangladesh. Rahul was diagnosed and treated for pneumonia through a UNICEF-supported health programme, which saved his life. ©UNICEF/BANA2012-00693/Khan
I have spent most of my life
working with and for children. My mission is to bring joy and happiness into
their lives wherever and whenever I can - their well being is paramount. That's
why it distresses me greatly to hear of injustice, unkindness and prejudice
against children anywhere in the world. If our society is judged by its
tolerance and our open-mindedness then this is especially true of our attitudes
towards children. Childhood lasts a lifetime and every policy made affects
children directly and indirectly into their adult life.
This week a global health summit
is being hosted by the Tanzanian Ministry of Health in partnership with the
GAVI Alliance. The purpose of the summit is to highlight and foster greater
political will explore ways to accelerate
Results, Innovation, Sustainability and Equity in the field of immunisation.
They will share technical knowledge about the
introduction of immunisation programmes against preventable diseases such as
pneumonia, rotavirus, HPV and rubella for children throughout the world.
The number of children who die every year from these
diseases is frightening. Pneumonia is the leading killer of children aged under
five in the developing world and is responsible for more than 1.3 million child
deaths every year. Rotavirus is estimated to kill around 450,000 children every
year which is nearly 1,200 children every day.
It is easy for us in the UK to
forget the millions of children who are affected by preventable diseases. For example, diarrhoea is an easily treatable
disease and, for those of us with access to effective treatments, safe water
and clean sanitation facilities, one that is little more than an inconvenience.
That simply isn't the case in many parts of the world. Making effective vaccines
available to all those children around the world that need them would make a
huge impact on lowering child mortality.
So what is being done to achieve
The aim of Millennium Development
Goal 4 is to reduce child mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2015 and the
encouraging news is that there are a large number of initiatives taking place
to meet this target. UK support is playing a vital role in making that
One great example is the GAVI
Alliance's aim to prevent the deaths of 500,000 children by 2015 and 1.5
million children by 2020 from pneumonia caused by pneumococcal disease. The
story is much the same with rotavirus, where effective vaccines are being used
to tackle the leading cause of diarrhoeal disease. I am delighted that the UK Government has
been at the forefront of the efforts to help to fund the vaccines and other
measures needed to prevent these deaths.
We surely all have a duty to the children of the world to
make sure they are safe and well and we need to do all we can to improve their
lives and reduce needless and unnecessary deaths. To do this we need real
leadership. The UK has shown this leadership in supporting organisations like
GAVI and UNICEF, organisations which have a proven track record in making
vaccines available to some of the poorest children in the world and which
distribute these vaccines on the ground. It is time for more governments to
look to the example provided by the UK and create the political will necessary
to fund projects to vaccinate children around the world.
That is why I want to show my support for the GAVI
Partners' Forum in Tanzania. Children around the world rely on the support of
organisations like GAVI and UNICEF and on the commitment of our Governments to
making sure that these projects succeed.
Baroness Benjamin, OBE is a member of the UNICEF UK Parliamentary Champions Network.