When European governments’ credit ratings were downgraded it became more expensive to raise money for health development projects
For the past six years, the GAVI Alliance has been raising money on financial markets through the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm). This is achieved by selling ‘Vaccine Bonds’ to investors which gives GAVI cash to spend on vaccines and immunisation programmes.
‘Vaccine Bonds’ are a radical innovation that has helped to save more than two million lives over a six year period. But, as the bonds are guaranteed by governments with faltering credit-worthiness, it seems the world’s poorest people may suffer most from the fallout of the eurozone crisis.
The vaccine bonds initiative has been hailed by world leaders as “a catalytic success story and one that is constantly attracting new members”. An official G8 report from the May 2012 meeting at Camp David describes the IFFIm as part of a “game changing” effort for global immunisation.
Hidden victims of financial crisis
Efforts to slash rates of preventable illnesses and to make a final push for the eradication of polio have built momentum in recent years, yet global financial instability threatens to derail progress in a number of areas.
Last month, Liam Donaldson, chair of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, said efforts to wipe out the disease could be jeopardised by a funding gap of more than €750 million. This, he added, would lead to the cancellation of vaccine programmes in 33 countries leaving 94 million children “exposed to the horrors of this disease”.
When discussing the impact of the financial crisis on health services in European countries we might also spare a thought for those in the developing world who depend for their survival on foreign aid and investment in vaccine bonds.
Who knows, maybe the true cost of failure to tackle the Eurozone will be defeat in the global war on polio. The disease is endemic in just a handful of countries and there have been no new cases in Europe for 10 years. Let’s hope progress is not about to be thrown off course.
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