The international children's charity ARK is the first to pledge money to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) Matching Fund for Immunisation, the centrepiece of UK efforts to improve access to new vaccines in the developing world.
The £1million pledge will be matched by the Department for International Development (DFID) and will boost ARK's programme to prevent and treat diarrhoeal disease in Zambia.
Rotavirus is the leading cause of death from diarrhoeal disease, which claims the lives of 15,000 under fives every year in Zambia alone. ARK is working with the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) to accelerate access to the new rotavirus vaccine, making Zambia one of the first countries in Africa to offer this.*
The UK government has been playing a strong leadership role in creating momentum around new vaccines, hosting the GAVI pledging conference in London on the 13th June to galvanise the international community behind this. By demonstrating how it has doubled its investment in vaccines by partnering with DFID, ARK hopes to encourage others to take advantage of the fund.
Ian Wace, Chairman of ARK, said:
"We are delighted to be the first organisation to take DFID up on its matching fund for vaccines through GAVI. This week's announcements demonstrate that through effective partnerships we can create the synergies which truly transform children's lives.
"This is a seminal moment for children's health. For ARK, the drop in the vaccine price and the government's matching of our £1million pledge to GAVI means we can vaccinate four times as many children in Zambia than before. But diarrhoea kills more children in sub-Saharan Africa than AIDS, malaria and measles combined so we need others to come forward too so that we can eradicate these needless deaths."
Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, said:
"We are determined to tackle the scourge of preventable childhood disease and I am delighted that ARK has become the first organisation to sign up to our new match-funding scheme which will help immunise tens of thousands of children in developing countries.
"It is simply appalling that a child dies every 20 seconds from diseases which babies in Britain are vaccinated against as a matter of course. For as little as the price of a cup of coffee a child can be vaccinated against five of the worst childhood diseases."
*South Africa is the only country in Africa to introduce the rotavirus vaccine to date as its government was able to meet the full costs. With help from ARK and CIDRZ, Zambia could become the second.