Reem bint Ebrahim Al Hashimy Cabinet Member and Minister of State for International Cooperation (centre) with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (1st right) and Dr Seth Berkly are seen at the press brief on the GAVI Alliance Mid-term Review to discuss details about MBZ’s donation towards vaccines in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: With the UAE’s support, Gavi, a global vaccine alliance, has helped save 10 million lives by delivering vaccines in some of the world’s poorest countries, an international conference heard in the capital on Monday (December 10).

A $33 million (Dh121 million) donation in 2011 by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in fact, increased vaccine delivery in Afghanistan. A further $5 million (Dh18 million) then played a key role in implementing innovative ways to ensure the uptake and equity of vaccine delivery, and it is this kind of innovation that is especially necessary going forward, the organisation’s chief executive officer, Seth Berkley, told Gulf News.

“The UAE was the first country in the region to donate to Gavi. More importantly, innovation is a part of the UAE DNA, and we need innovation to reach every last child and overcome the challenges we are now facing,” Berkley said.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a two-day meeting of the alliance that kicked off on Monday (December 10). Nearly 300 delegates at the meet are reviewing the gains and shortfalls in meeting the alliance’s 2020 targets.

Gavi, established in 2000 and driven by public-private partnerships, has already immunised 700 million children worldwide against diseases like polio, river blindness and yellow fever.

“The UAE has contributed more than $38 million (Dh139 million) to Gavi since 2011. But it is not just the Alliance’s objectives [to save lives and improve health care] that make it a unique partner for the UAE. Gavi translates innovative approaches to health care into reality,” said Reem Al Hashimi, Minister of State for International Cooperation.

The alliance now needs to counter new challenges, including climate change, security threats, persistent poverty and the difficulties in reaching children in rural areas as well as urban slums.

“While we would love to receive more financial support from the UAE, we would also love to see Gulf companies innovating in areas that can facilitate better vaccine coverage. Even today, one in 10 children does not receive basic vaccines, and if we keep doing things the same way, these children will still not be reached,” Berkley explained.

To that end, the organisation is looking at innovations in vaccine storage through cold chain technology. It is also keen to ensure vaccine delivery to displaced peoples across the world, and to those in conflict-ridden areas.

Vaccine delivery in conflict-ridden areas

A series of meetings between conflicting parties in Yemen has allowed for 3.1 million doses of the cholera vaccine to be delivered in Yemen, Seth Berkley, said chief executive officer at Gavi, the global vaccine alliance. The most recent round of vaccines was delivered last month (November 2018), and it represents a trust built between conflicting parties which is essential to the peace process, he added.