Save the Children and Gavi join forces to vaccinate ‘zero-dose’ children

Health campaign will focus on closing immunisation gap in war-torn areas

Freshta, 11 years old, in a mixed class in district just outside Kabul in Afghanistan. The accelerated learning center is the first school in their village.
Photo: Mats Lingel/Save the Children
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A vaccine initiative backed by the World Health Organisation joined forces with Save the Children to close the immunisation gap in war-torn nations.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) said there were millions of "zero-dose" children in developing countries yet to receive a single vaccine to prevent killer diseases, such as cholera and measles.

The agreement will draw on Save the Children's expertise in “fragile states" affected by conflict and will support "treatment of childhood pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and malnutrition" in communities with poor health facilities.

Jonathan*, 15 helping Peter, 15* to study. The boys are friends living in a refugee settlement for South Sudanese refugees in West Nile, Uganda. Jonathan inspired Peter, to go back to school after he had stopped attending school and had started working as a tailor. As friends, they spend time chatting, playing football, and studying.

The project will address so-called vaccine hesitancy through community education programmes.

“Despite enormous progress over the past two decades ensuring children everywhere have access to life-saving immunisation, 20 million still miss out on basic vaccines every year,” Gavi deputy chief executive Anuradha Gupta said. “Our vision is to close the equity gap and leave no one behind with immunisation.

"We know a disproportionate number of children who are not receiving vaccines come from hard-to-reach areas, including fragile and conflict settings. We are therefore delighted to partner with Save the Children, whose worldwide network and deep expertise will enable us to reach them.”

Chief executive of Save the Children, Kevin Watkins, said 160 million children lived in “high-intensity conflict zones” around the world.

“While progress has been made, too many others still live in remote, marginalised communities with little or no health care,” he said.

“For 100 years, we’ve been finding new ways to help children who need us most, no matter where they’re growing up.”

More than 10 million children in lower-income countries receive no routine vaccinations, an issue that is likely to worsen amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gavi said.

Many of these children lack basic services, such as education and clean water, and suffer from significant gender disparities.

Gavi is one of the partners in Covax, a UN-backed programme aiming to secure and deliver millions of coronavirus vaccines to people in middle-income households and developing nations.