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The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) celebrated the first anniversary of its pledging conference last week. As we reported last year, during the conference GAVI received contributions from a diverse range of countries including the UK, USA, Australia, Brazil, Korea and Norway, as well as the Gates Foundation. In total a significant $4.3 billion was pledged to promote global health through immunisation. This anniversary does not only give us a chance to mark this occasion but allows us to reflect upon what GAVI has achieved since the conference.
As promised, GAVI has supported countries to distribute life-saving vaccines. The two biggest global childhood killers are pneumonia and severe diarrhoea, which is why two thirds of GAVI’s approved programmes, in late 2011, involved vaccinating against pneumococcal disease and rotavirus. In April of this year Ghana launched both programmes, which you can find out more about in their ‘Doing the Double’ video. This was followed by Rwanda, who in May introduced rotavirus vaccines – (in addition to the pneumococcal vaccines launched in April of 2009). However, GAVI is increasingly investing in vaccinations against measles, rubella, hepatitis B to prevent liver cancer, and HPV which is the main cause of cervical cancer in women. Last week, the Gavi Board announced up to an additional $162 million to combat a recent resurgence of measles, and will target high risk countries such as Afghanistan and Ethiopia.
GAVI have also managed to work with manufacturers to bring down the price of vaccinations so that the world’s poor can get quicker and cheaper access to them. For instance, agreements with their industry partners have resulted in a 67% reduction in the price of rotavirus vaccines. GAVI has clearly had a successful year and the routine immunisation rate across all GAVI supported countries is 80%. You can view an online version of their full report card, which charts their progress so far. The below chart estimates how many deaths GAVI have averted through vaccination.
Nevertheless, much more needs to be done if they are to meet their goal of immunising an additional 250 million children by 2015 and creating fair access to immunisation for all. In the world, one out of every five children still doesn’t receive their basic vaccinations. Both poverty and socio-economic inequality have created a situation where some have access to vaccination but others do not. GAVI strive hard to tackle this inequality; but it is only one element of a larger movement to promote global health and tackle extreme poverty. This includes vaccinations against diseases GAVI does not cover- such as polio which desperately needs further investment if it is to be eradicated. However it also goes beyond vaccination and tackling wider issues which cause inequality and extreme global poverty.
What GAVI have shown us in the past year is that through collaboration, investment, and a global desire to make a difference, something can be done.
* Images: GAVI 2011 Doune Porter Tanzania and GAVI 2011 Future Deaths Averted by Vaccine.
I’ve spent the better part of the past four months campaigning with a team of grassroots organizers through 30 states, 60 cities, reaching 10,000 people with one important message: Ending extreme poverty can truly be our generation’s greatest achievement. But no matter the cultural, socio-economic or geographic differences in the places we visited, our audiences primarily wanted to know one thing: How can one individual make an impact on such a daunting issue as extreme poverty?
So I wanted to highlight an organization that provides the opportunity for individuals to take immediate action—the Enough Project. Enough’s work is particularly important not only because of the tangible impact of their activism, but also because they are addressing an issue in which we as consumers are all deeply implicated—conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a video that caught me completely off-guard: a four-minute narrative in which Enough’s co-founder John Prendergast explains the intricate supply chain linking our electronic gadgets to a cycle of extreme violence and poverty in the DRC. For those who aren't familiar, I'll let you watch the video to truly see the magnitude of the issue, but here it is in a nutshell: Congo’s vast mineral reserves + violent profiteering militias + global supply chains = our electronics products coming at the expense of massive human suffering.
The “conflict minerals” narrative has gained a bit of traction in the major media of late, notably in The New York Times and VICE. This is good news, as press coverage is needed to bring public and government attention to the issue. But a key piece is still missing in order for this situation to truly change: we need a consumer movement to demand ethically sourced electronics products.
Our team had the pleasure of sitting down with Enough to discuss how exactly they are building this consumer movement through their Raise Hope for Congo campaign. So watch the interview, then visit Raise Hope for Congo’s “Take Action” page, where you’ll see a number of different opportunities to join the movement for peace in Congo, such as sending petitions to leading electronics companies to demand conflict-free products sourced from Congo, and pressuring your campus to go conflict-free by joining the Conflict-Free Campus Inititiative (which, since filming our interview with Enough, has grown to 100 campuses across the country).
This is a true example of the power of the individual in the fight against the myriad factors that create extreme poverty. We've already shown with the blood diamonds movement that consumer demand dictates supply, and that companies don't have to choose between "doing the right thing" and making a profit. The Apples, HPs and Dells of the world know this to be true; let’s show them that we do too.
The first time I saw the statistic that 1.4 billion people around the world live on less than $1.25 a day I didn’t believe that it could be true. It is hard for anyone who hasn’t lived in extreme poverty to ascertain what it might be like to survive on only two small bowls of rice and vegetables each day.
To help residents of Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom to develop a greater understanding of extreme poverty the Global Poverty Project operates the Live Below the Line campaign. Last week from the 7th-11th of May almost 3,000 people in the United Kingdom lived on £1 a day for 5 days, for all food and drink. While doing the challenge participants fundraised for one of 21 partner charities. The campaign was a great success and an excellent opportunity for many people to experience a taste of life in extreme poverty.
We should not underestimate the signifance of the campaign, as it seems that a lack of connection with extreme poverty diminishes interest in government contributions to international development. The National Priorities Project explains that in the United States many citizens feel that cutting the federal aid budget would help loosen the pressure of the financial crisis. American aid as a percentage of GNI is 0.21%, or around $56 billion in Obama’s 2013 budget request. This may sound like a lot of money but in the context of the projected $901 billion deficit for 2013, the figure is quite small.
The media regularly reminds us of the crisis in Somalia as they send the message that aid hinders development. Gerbert van der Aa explains that 66% of aid is harmful or has no positive benefit. While aid is not sustainable or desirable in the long term it can help kick start growth and pave the way for infrastructural developments. Leading economist Jeffery Sachs explains that aid has been instrumental in fostering much of the recent growth in developing countries. To promote growth in the developing world it is imperative that our government’s commitment to aid not be diminished.
That is why the Global Poverty Project led the Protect Point Seven campaign. Global Poverty Ambassadors, many of whom had previously participated in the Live Below the Line campaign, wrote to their MPs to elicit support for maintaining the UK government’s commitment to giving 0.7% of total GNI as development aid. Over 350 pictures and hundreds of letters were sent and several participants had the opportunity to personally thank Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Ivan Lewis MP and Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell MP. When the budget was announced, the Global Poverty Project was delighted to see that the current government has maintained their commitment to 0.7%.
Participating in the Live Below the Line campaign has transformed people’s impressions about the value of development aid and the role that the UK government must play in ending extreme poverty. Changing the way that people approach aid has extensive implications for the capacity of the UK government to address the structural problems that allow poverty to persist. For more information about the Live Below the Line campaign please visit www.livebelowtheline.com. You can still join the campaign and fundraise till the end of June.
It's Friday night in Australia, and this year’s official Live Below the Line week is coming to an end.
But the challenge isn’t over.
Because our challenge is to build the movement for change.
And when building a movement, advocates are crucial.
This week Live Below the Line participants caught a glimpse of the complexities of the issue of extreme poverty: we saw how a lack of money, resources and choice can intersect to constrain your everyday life.
For the thousands taking the challenge this week has been tough. Yet we haven’t even come close to experiencing the real challenges of extreme poverty. And we never will; because we can never truly understand what it means to face systemic issues like limited access to health care, poor sanitation infrastructure, corruption and unfair trade. These issues, and more, all play a key role in perpetuating poverty and inequality.
They’re complex... but they’re not unchangeable.
In the last three decades the world has halved extreme poverty. Together, we are making progress.
Thanks to the support of Live Below the Line donors, the Global Poverty Project Australia will be able to invest in expanding crucial education and campaign work in three key areas that contribute to ending extreme poverty: preventing disease, supporting fair trade, and increasing transparency.
We know that investment in these areas can change lives. We also know that the conversations and advocacy of our supporters can multiply our impact in these areas. Not only now, but next week, next month and next year.
As we continue to campaign for the end of extreme poverty, your involvement as an advocate will be invaluable. Please continue taking action, and encourage those around you to also stand up for change.
This Tuesday’s announcement - that our major political parties are breaking their promise on foreign aid - demonstrates just how important our work as advocates is.
Thanks to everyone who took part. Not only the team who have made the campaign possible, but to the people who took this campaign into their schools, workplaces, family homes and universities; and stood up for change. Your efforts are helping build the movement for change.
If you’re one of the more than 7,000 Australians currently Living Below the Line, you're probably starting to feel the effects of living on $2 worth of food and drink a day. I know I’m feeling tired, hungry, and if we’re being honest - a little bit grumpy as well.
But imagine if you had to add sick to this list as well.
When you survive on the equivalent of $2 a day; you can't afford for things to go wrong.
And yet something as simple as a mosquito bite can change your life.
For the 1.4 billion people living below the extreme poverty line (that's with the equivalent of $2AUD a day to cover all their daily needs, not just food); illness is a very real and constant threat.
Below the line, illness can be disastrous.
For starters, medical care is not always readily available. To access treatment you may need to find (and pay for) transport to a hospital. Often this means getting to the next major city - which can be several hundred kilometres away. The time you spend getting to the hospital then means you’re kept away from your work - and that don’t have the opportunity to earn your income for that day. Once you find medical care; that doesn’t mean its free... or even cheap. And you may be faced with a choice between eating, and buying medication. Even worse, if the person that illness strikes is the family breadwinner, the illness may leave them unable to work.
Unfortunately, limited access to basic health care and vaccinations means that people in extreme poverty are vulnerable to a myriad of illnesses - including many that young Australians have been lucky enough to be able to forget.
Let's take polio as an example.
Most young Australians will think of polio as only a vaccination. But for the poorest of the poor this is a disease that still causes paralysis and death in young children. Due to global collaboration over the past three decades, polio is now only endemic in three countries worldwide. But it continues to affect marginalised children: those in minority groups, mobile populations, remote villages or, conversely, in dense urban slums.
Once an extremely poor child gets polio, their entire future changes. Their ability to work and to access education is limited; even their chances of getting married decreases dramatically. Instead of being able to help their family work their way out of extreme poverty, their disability can lead them to be seen as a financial burden in families that are often already overburdened: deepening their cycle of poverty.
This is why the Global Poverty Project campaigns on preventable disease - we believe that no child should suffer or die from a disease we can easily and cheaply prevent. Eradicating polio, for example, would mean that more children would grow up to lead full and productive lives. And that's one effective way to reduce extreme poverty.