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The BBC's Martin Dawes
"The aim is to speed up the introduction of new vaccines."
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Monday, 31 January, 2000, 14:57 GMT
Gates boosts vaccine programme

Tanzanian children are threatened by preventable diseases Tanzanian children face death from preventable diseases

By Martin Dawes in Nairobi

Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates is giving $750m to a new initiative to fight preventable diseases.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation has been launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

It will actually save us from having to deal with the emergence of diseases we controlled earlier
Dr Stanley Sonoiya, Kenya's Immunisation Programme
It has the backing of the United Nations Children's Fund, the World Bank, and the pharmaceutical industry.

The aim is to speed up the introduction of new vaccines, especially in the developing world.

It will also extend existing inoculation programmes, and boost research into new vaccines for diseases such as Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

Tanzania sets good example

In rural Tanzania, a visit by health teams to a remote village is an excuse for celebration.

Liniyo: Lost two children because of Liniyo: Two of her children died because of "bad luck"
The country has one of the best track records for child vaccination in Africa - though this reputation is now at risk.

Money is scarce and there is less enthusiasm.

You do not have to look far before the dangers of diseases like measles, polio and whooping cough become all too evident.

"I lost two children because of bad luck. There were no clinics," says Liniyo.

A child here is 10 times more likely to die of a vaccine-preventable disease than a child in Europe.

Under the Immunisation Initiative, Tanzania will be one of the first countries to get new vaccines for Hepatitis B and childhood pneumonia.

Delivering vaccines by bike part of imaginative innoculation programme Imaginative: Delivering vaccines by bicycle
Quite apart from the obvious health benefits, it is a considerable boost for hard pressed staff.

"We hope that we are fighting and reaching all of those who need vaccination," says Dr Mariam Ongara who is a Medical Officer.

"We need to sensitise people more and more, so they can know the importance of vaccination."

In southern Sudan, polio vaccines are distributed by health workers on bicycles.

These imaginative responses will be needed if the Global Initiative is to succeed in its aim of improving immunisation coverage.

'In it together'

Morale boost for Dr Stanley Sonoiya Morale boost for Dr Stanley Sonoiya
The women at an urban clinic in Kenya know that some of the biggest health threats now come from Aids and malaria.

Money will go into research to find vaccines in a radical reorientation of priorities that will attempt to put the needs of impoverished patients in the developing world at the top.

"I think this Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation implies that we are in it together," says Dr Stanley Sonoiya of Kenya's Immunisation Programme.

"It will actually save us from having to deal with the emergence of diseases we controlled earlier."

Disease and illness lie behind much of the poverty in Africa. This is not just a humanitarian issue. It is a vital matter of development.

The developing world is still in the front line in an age-old battle with some of mankind's oldest killers. The glittering prize of success is the saving of the lives of millions of children.

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See also:
14 Jan 00 |  Business
Profile: Bill Gates
06 Jan 00 |  Americas
Taking on the malaria bug
24 Nov 99 |  Americas
Gates pledges $750m vaccine fund
26 Jun 98 |  Medical notes
Malaria: the facts
17 Jun 99 |  Medical notes
Infectious disease: A guide
04 Jun 99 |  Your Money
Bill Gates' $5bn donation
13 Apr 99 |  Your Money
Gates becomes first man to top $100bn
24 Feb 99 |  Your Money
Bill Gates and his cash

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