15 February 2017
Shawn Clackett

Sell Trump on foreign aid? Melinda Gates vows to try

14 February 2017
Shawn Clackett

Okonjo-Iweala’s Intervention for the World Economic Forum

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, says finance ministers often fail to see vaccines as investments with high returns.

In her intervention for the World Economic Forum, Okonjo-Iweala argued that “the first step to Africa’s prosperity – saving children’s lives”.

She said for every $1 spent on vaccinating children, the world stands to gain as much as $44.

Okonjo-Iweala: Finance ministers fail to see vaccines as investments with high returns


For Africa, the road to prosperity must begin with investment in its most precious resource. Not its minerals, oil reserves or plantations, but something even more critical to Africa’s future: the health of its children. I don’t mean this figuratively; an investment in children’s health is precisely that. Compelling evidence now suggests that every dollar, shilling, pound or rand spent on preventing disease does not just reduce needless human suffering, but it also makes sound economic sense too.

With more than 30 vaccine doses administered worldwide every second, immunization is already recognized as one of the most cost effective health interventions. But recent research published in the journal Health Affairs, now puts a more precise figure on it. For every dollar invested in childhood immunization we can expect to save $16 in healthcare costs, lost wages and productivity due to illness. If you take into account the full value placed on people living longer, healthier lives, then that return on investment increases even further to $44.

For governments, this represents a huge opportunity. But it also means that when it comes to child health the buck shouldn’t stop with health ministers; protection of child health needs to be a national priority for all government, and all governments. Yet, even though vaccination is such good value, one-in-five children globally are still not getting access to even the most basic shots, with many countries having immunization coverage rates of below 50%, the vast majority in my home continent of Africa. Because of this 1.5 million children still die every year from vaccine preventable diseases.

Part of the problem is failure by leaders to recognize vaccines as a top priority investment. In particular, finance ministers too often fail to recognize that vaccines aren’t just good value for money, but are investments with very high returns. In addition to this there is a widespread assumption within governments and beyond, that childhood mortality is just a matter for health ministers. In reality, it has implications for just about every aspect of government.

That’s because preventing illness through immunization can have a huge impact in helping to contribute to the social and economic wellbeing of individuals, families, communities and countries. A healthy infant does not need medical treatment or care, both of which come at a cost. She also has a greater chance of growing into a healthier child, who is able to attend school and ultimately become a more productive member of society. And instead of caring for a sick child, her parents are in a better position to go out to work and increase their own ability to earn, which means they will have a greater disposable income to feed back into the economy.

All of this is not just good for boosting local and national prosperity; strong routine immunization programmes also form a vital part of robust universal healthcare systems, which are themselves critical to helping national leaders achieve economic and development targets. To put a figure on it, this latest study, which looked at 94 low- and middle-income countries, predicts that between 2011-2020 childhood immunization stands to offer up to $1.43 trillion in economic benefits.

However, if we wish to harness these benefits, as well as further economic returns beyond 2020, then we need to see greater long-term domestic commitment towards immunization. Since 1990 we have seen childhood mortality more than halve, and since 2000 we have witnessed more than 580 million additional children receive vaccines, thanks to organisations like UNICEF, the World Health Organization and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, of which I am the Board Chair. But if this kind of progress is to be sustained then we need to see strong immunization policy backed up by long-term health spending allocation.

That means the focus needs to shift away from just health ministers, and instead engage all aspects of government, in particular finance ministers. As former Finance Minister for Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, I know how important it is for health ministers to make a better case for immunization to finance ministers when it comes to defending their health budget. They need to make finance ministers understand the critical role that reducing infectious disease has in boosting the economy, and the role they have to play in making that happen.

To some extent we have already seen some very positive signs of progress, not least with the former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, last year agreeing to become Gavi’s Global Ambassador for Immunisation to help spread the word to his peers about the benefits and value of vaccination that he saw in his own country. In addition, we have seen increases in spending on health. Over the next five years we expect to see the 39 poorest African governments contribute around $6 billion towards the cost of immunization. If childhood mortality is to continue to fall we will need to ensure that in the years to come that figure continues to rise.

10 February 2017
Shawn Clackett

Malaria-carrying Mosquitoes Becoming Resistant to Bed Nets in Southern Africa

FILE - An Afghan girl sleeps beneath a mosquito net at her home in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 21, 2016.

An Afghan girl sleeps beneath a mosquito net at her home in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 21, 2016.

By Jessica Berman

Malaria-carrying mosquitoes are becoming resistant to the insecticide used in bed nets to prevent the disease. Researchers say it is important to stay ahead of the resistance to avoid what they are calling a public health catastrophe.

Bed nets treated with inexpensive pyrethroid insecticides are the main defense against biting, malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and they have significantly cut down on the number of cases. The World Health Organization reports malaria infected an estimated 212 million people in 2015, killing some 429,000 of them.

That reflects a 21 percent drop in the incidence of between 2010 and 2015.

But a new study, published in the journal PLoS Genetics, found that the primary mosquito that harbors the parasite in southern Africa, Anopheles funestus, is rapidly becoming resistant to the insecticide. In at least one country, Mozambique, researchers discovered that 100 percent of A. funestus remained alive after direct exposure to the chemical.

Full story

31 January 2017
Shawn Clackett

Helen Evans Appointment as an Officer in the Order of Australia

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Ms Helen Evans has been appointed as an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia on Australia Day 2017 for distinguished service to global health as an advocate for the improved treatment of infectious diseases in underprivileged populations, particularly for women and children.

Service includes: Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), 2009-2014 and Interim Chief Executive Officer, 2011. Deputy Executive Director, The Global Fight to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, 2005-2009. First Assistant Secretary, Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Commonwealth Department of Health, 1997-2005. Assistant Secretary, Budget Information and Evaluation Branch, Portfolio Strategies Group, Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services. 1996-1997. Assistant Secretary, AIDS/Communicable Diseases Branch, Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health, 1993-1996. Professional memberships include: Board Member, Burnett Institute, since 2015. Board Member, Fred Hollows Foundation, since 2015. Advisory Council Member, Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, since 2014. Honorary Associate Professor, The Nossal Institute for Public Health

Pacific Friends’ Executive Director, Bill Bowtell AO, said “Helen has made an outstanding contribution to international health and development both in Australia and then in her successive roles at Gavi Alliance and with the Global Fund. I especially recall and congratulate Helen on her great contribution in the early days of HIV/AIDS in Australia, when her unwavering commitment to sane and sensible health policy-making were first honed and displayed.”

The Development Policy Centre at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, wrote a piece on Helen’s story, written by Robin Davies. Read it here.

Congratulations Helen!

23 January 2017
Shawn Clackett

Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership Board Appoints New CEO

Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu, Newly Appointed Chief Executive Officer

The Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership Board is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu to the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

The RBM Board unanimously selected the exceptional Dr. Kesete for the role of RBM CEO at the 4th Partnership Board Meeting, following an extensive global search and selection process supported by executive search firm Egon Zehnder.

Dr Kesete will play a critical role as the global face of the new Partnership on a day-to-day basis, including establishing and leading a new Partnership Management Team and ensuring that regions and countries are empowered to address the global fight against malaria.

Dr. Winnie Mpanju-Shumbusho, Board Chair of the RBM Partnership said “As a champion of innovation, task-shifting and implementation at scale, Dr Kesete has the experience required to lead this global Partnership into a new era and drive momentum to end malaria for good. We are incredibly excited to welcome him on board.”

Dr Kesete will officially commence duties on 1 February 2017 and move into the new RBM offices at the Global Fund in Geneva on 1 March 2017. The RBM Board Leadership will support him in the phased recruitment of remaining members of the new Partnership Management Team over the course of 2017.

“I am excited to join RBM Partnership as the CEO. I look forward to working with all the RBM partners in the effort to relegate malaria into the history books.” – Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu

Pacific Friends operates as a program within the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.

Pacific Friends

Professor Janice Reid AC
Bill Bowtell AO
Executive Director

Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a high-level advocacy organisation which seeks to mobilise regional awareness of the serious threat posed by HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to societies and economies in the Pacific. In pursuing its goals Pacific Friends has a specific interest in highlighting the need to protect the rights of women and children in the Pacific.


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