|The GAVI Alliance is supporting the Tanzanian government’s efforts to get more children vaccinated against preventable diseases.|
By Jacqueline Namfua
MOROGORO, Tanzania 17 April 2008 – Like all hospitals and health facilities in Tanzania, Morogoro Regional Hospital offers free routine immunization to all children under the age of five.
Since 2000, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) has been helping Tanzania reach more children with vaccines. As a result, immunization coverage has climbed from approximately 79 per cent in 2000 to around 90 per cent today.
In return, children benefit from protection against polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and Hepatitis B.
Support for immunization
The Tanzanian Government’s efforts are supported by GAVI, which brings together all the key partners in immunization – including UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, governments, non-governmental organizations, vaccine manufacturers and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“I think that partnerships and alliances are always important because governments alone or any one of the agencies alone are not strong enough to provide the support. The broader the better,” said UNICEF Representative in Tanzania Heimo Laakkonen.
In addition to better coordination, recent support from GAVI has helped Tanzania improve its supply chain, ensuring that vaccines get to health facilities on time and at the right temperature. Even the most remote communities can now be reached by health workers using motorcycles.
However, despite all these efforts, children are still getting infected with life-threatening diseases that could be easily prevented.
‘No excuse’ for inaction
“In this modern world, there is absolutely no excuse for not giving children in a country like Tanzania the same protection against diseases as we give children in richer countries,” said GAVI Alliance spokesperson Dan Thomas.
After malaria, pneumonia is the biggest global killer of children, with a death toll of more than 2 million children every year. Mr. Thomas noted that the GAVI Alliance and its partners are currently working on providing two vaccines that will have the potential to cut in half the number of deaths from childhood pneumonia.
“The introduction of new vaccines, as well as long-term funding for immunization and strong health systems, is key to protecting millions of children from diseases which can be prevented,” he said.
Gavi Alliance website
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