“Aid Works”. This was Bill Gates key message when he visited the European Parliament yesterday, as those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen.
During his visit I had the opportunity to ask him about what we need to be doing here in the European Parliament to increase the use of vaccines and immunisation in developing countries.
In his talk Mr Gates focused on the positive effect that aid has already had on many developing nations. He pointed out that success stories are often sidelined when it comes to talking about development since much of the coverage focuses on crisis situations. This positive angle is something that he hopes to promote with “Living Proof”, his partnership with the ONE Organisation.
Bill Gates praised the EU for its current and past commitment to development aid but stressed it was important to keep the ball rolling on this issue.
His speech highlighted the positive impact that agriculture and immunisation have in developing countries and the far-reaching changes that projects focused on these two factors bring about. He also spoke of the importance of effective aid.
Gates pointed out that improving agricultural productivity reduces poverty more quickly than any other investment. Small farmers who are assisted in developing the means, in terms of technologies and knowledge, to improve their output are then able to provide greater support for their families. This can enable to send their children to school.
He also illustrated the massive effect vaccination programmes have had on the number of deaths related to diseases such as measles and polio. Between 2000 and 2008 measles deaths fell by 78% whilst cases of polio have fallen by around 99%. Aid from the EU is estimated to have helped vaccinate 5 million children against measles.
One organisation that is a good example of a vehicle for effective aid is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. GAVI has been commended for the ‘value for money’ and efficacy of its work in this area.
So, how did Bill Gates answer my question?
He responded by saying that together UNICEF and GAVI have made much progress on vaccines and immunisation in developing countries and are key organisations by which vaccines and immunisation programmes can be rolled out.
However, following a big push in the 1980s, pressure to ensure that all children are immunised against vaccine preventable diseases has plateaued . Demographically 20% of children are still missing as a result of lack of access.
We need to re-dedicate ourselves to ensuring equitable coverage of vaccines everywhere in the world.
You can view Bill Gates’ response in full below. His answer made it clear to me that we must work together to push the discussion of vaccinations and immunisation back up the EU’s aid agenda.