• A moment to celebrate - child health

    Posted by Simon

    16 June, 2011

    Every now and then something happens that captures - in a single moment - why those of us involved with Micah Challenge do what we do.

    Last Sunday we had one of those moments.

    During his speech at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) pledging conference in London on Sunday, Kevin Rudd said:

    "I don't know how we could spend our aid dollars better than in saving the lives of children"

    The GAVI Alliance is a unique global health partnership that aims to save children's lives and protect people's health by increasing access to immunisation in developing countries. Since its inception in 2000, GAVI's cost-effective programs have prevented an estimated 5.4 million deaths and immunised a total of 257 million children from diseases.

    Over the weekend, while most of us were enjoying a holiday in honour of the Queen, GAVI's pledging conference was being held in London, hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron. Donor countries (such as Australia) were invited to pledge money to the organisation for the next three years. Overall, the GAVI Alliance received a total of $4.3 billion in pledges, well in excess of the $3.7 billion target (see the break down of the pledges here).

    From an Australian perspective, Minister for Foreign Affairs The Hon Kevin Rudd announced that Australia would commit $200 million to the GAVI Alliance over the period 2011-2013; an amount that reaches our 'fair share' requirement.

    A moment. A very significant moment......for three reasons:

    1. After 3 years of campaigning on this issue, Australia is now doing its fair share of a global effort to meet MDG4. Advocacy campaigns like Micah Challenge are often talking about funding gaps for development. It is rare that we can ever celebrate a funding target being reached (or even exceeded), but today is one of those days. A growing aid budget allows us to make pledges like this that meet our fair share.This is a moment we should celebrate!

    2. This moment means lives will be saved - and lots of them! As a result of this funding increase, GAVI is aiming to immunise more than 250 million children living in poverty against life-threatening diseases by 2015. The work will also prevent more than four million premature deaths. This is a moment we should celebrate!

    3. You helped make it happen! Take a look at the extract from Mr Rudd's speech copied below. The speech was entitled 'For the children of the world: survive past five'- a reference to Micah Challenge's 'Survive Past Five' child health campaign. This was a wonderful moment - a moment we should celebrate.

    Here's what Mr. Rudd had to say about our advocacy efforts in his speech:

    "We come here because people - in my case Australians - believe it is the right thing to do.

    Children in their thousands from across our wide land have written to me to urge me to strengthen our pledge.

    Adele from the Illawarra Christian School in Albion Park in NSW, wrote to me.

    She wrote and decorated this little card. She wrote 'Dear Kevin Rudd, Please hear our message as we shout out for the voiceless - even through the howling wind, we will be heard.'

    Well Adele, we hear you. We know what you want. And we intend to do what we say.

    For Adele, and for the millions of Australians who share her call, I commit Australia to increase its contribution to GAVI to 200 million dollars."

    One voice, along with many other voices - results in action - results in lives saved.

    There is of course, much more to do. The GAVI Alliance only supports a few vaccines and vaccines are only a small part of the bigger movement for global health. We must continue to advocate the Australian Government to increase funding for health; it is a low-cost and developmentally effective way of spending our foreign aid dollars.

    But this is a moment that encapsulates why we do what we do.

    We continue to pray for more moments like this one.


    Simon Massey works in Child Advocacy Relations for Compassion Australia and also serves on the Micah Challenge Campaign Strategy Group.