American Expenditure on EntertainmentExpenditure by the average American consumer unit (henceforth household) each year is substantial compared to what the poor in the world spend. Of the 200 million or so rich people globally, Americans make up the majority; in this decade, as determined by those in the World Data Lab, “the world’s top market segment will be America’s rich” (italicization added). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey (BLS CEX), entertainment spending made up 5.3% of the total average annual expenditure of American households in 2018. American spending on entertainment is considerable.

Collectively: Average American Households

Looking at the CEX, in 2018, average annual expenditures rose to $61,224, compared to $60,060 the year before. More specifically, spending on entertainment (EE) increased to $3,226, from $3,203 in 2017. (Inflation was higher than expenditure numbers in 2018. Nevertheless, consider that thousands of dollars went toward entertainment.) There were 131,439,000 households in the U.S. in 2018. When one multiplies that number by EE, one gets $424,022,214,000; hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on entertainment.

That amount of money is more considerable than the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 for the entire country of the United Arab Emirates (where Dubai and the tallest building in the world are), which was over $421 billion.

So what does the category of entertainment expenditure include in the BLS CEX?

  1. Fees and admissions, including admissions to sporting events and movies; fees for social organizations; recreational lessons; and recreation expenses on trips.

  2. Television, radio and sound equipment, including video game hardware and musical instruments.

  3. Pets, toys, hobbies and playground equipment.

  4. Other entertainment equipment and services, including indoor exercise equipment, camping equipment, boats, photographic equipment and supplies and fireworks.

Just $2 billion of the $72.56 billion that Americans spent on pets in 2018 is what Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, was at a minimum seeking to raise as of 7 August. That amount could immunize both those with high susceptibility to the coronavirus and health care workers in Gavi-supported countries, with doses that would be available for use where needed most. Gavi is a public-private partnership that has helped to immunize hundreds of millions of children since 2000; partners include the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

America’s Rich

By the end of 2020, there will be an average of $194 to spend per day per wealthy American; this is put forth in a Brookings Institution blog. Possibly an appropriate juxtaposition, in 2018, households and non-profit institutions serving households (NPISHs) final consumption expenditure per capita was $189 in Burundi, a country where most of the population is poor and which has the second lowest GDP in the world.

Using data from the 2018 CEX, one may learn something else concerning American expenditure on entertainment. The top 10% of highest income (before taxes) households in the U.S. had an average of 3.2 persons and spent an average annual expenditure of $142,554. That amounted to around $122 spent per day per person: each person spent approximately $6.64 a day on entertainment. Notice that the $122 is less than the $194 of America’s wealth. 

If each of the 42,134,400 persons of the above top 10% were to have given around $1.20, less than a fifth of what they expended on average on entertainment per day, that would be enough (at least in hard numbers) to meet the net funding requirements from June to November of this year about the World Food Programme in Burundi.

The Bigger Picture

Entertainment may not in and of itself be bad or good. One way that American expenditure on entertainment affects Americans is the amount of time they spend on entertainment. For example, in 2019, the BLS reports that watching television on average took up the most leisure time. Although Americans possibly can inform themselves about the poor in the world via television, Americans could use some of the time spent watching television to ask their representatives to support legislation that could help reduce poverty.

Kylar Cade
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccine
The World Health Organization (WHO) is making plans for how a life-saving COVID-19 vaccine could be distributed around the globe.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

There are concerns about countries “hoarding” stores of vaccines for their own citizens. The countries that have the most money on hand will have the ability to buy a larger portion of available vaccines for citizens. While global leaders have come together to pledge $2 billion towards the creation of a vaccine, there is currently no formal worldwide plan to successfully manage the future COVID-19 vaccine and its distribution.

The public-private partnership that lead to this $2 billion pledge, Gavi, focuses on increasing childhood vaccinations in underdeveloped countries. It has support from WHO, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates himself has promised $1.6 million towards Gavi, along with $100 million to help countries that will need aid to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

U.S. Involvement and WHO

The U.S. government has decided to stay out of the recent Gavi-organized funding pledge. The country has also pulled monetary support from WHO. In the past, the U.S. has been a large supporter of the creation of the HPV and pneumococcal vaccines, which has left many experts confused by the recent moves of the U.S. to disassociate itself from the larger global race towards a COVID-19 vaccine.

Beyond hoarding concerns, there are always issues surrounding legal and sharing agreements between countries, quality control, civil uprising and unrest and natural disasters when it comes to vaccine distribution.

A recent example of how the world dealt with vaccine distribution during a pandemic is the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu pandemic. With the money they had, wealthier countries purchased most of the vaccine available through early orders, leaving developing countries to scramble for leftover vaccine stores. Eyjafjallajökul’s eruption in Iceland in April of 2010 also created vaccine shipping delays. Many countries, such as the U.S., Australia and Canada would not let vaccine manufacturers ship vaccines outside of their countries without fulfilling their people’s needs first.

Going Forward

To create a successful global vaccination program requires the cooperation from all countries involved, not just a few. Many may die without the equitable sharing of vaccines as this pandemic will flourish in underdeveloped nations. It may be seen by the rest of the global community as selfish to not try and help other countries in their fight against the virus.

Even after a vaccine is created, different strains of COVID-19 could easily return to Australian, Canadian or American shores, wreaking havoc all over again. While there are efforts being made to prevent distribution issues with the future vaccine, without the help of the United States,—one of the wealthiest countries on Earth—it may be long before a COVID-19 vaccine is fairly distributed.

Tara Suter
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Zambia
Zambia, a landlocked country in Southern-Central Africa, faces several ongoing health challenges. In 2017, Zambia’s public health expenditure was 4.47% of the GDP, one of the lowest rates in southern Africa. Two ministries that provide information about health and deliver health services, administer public healthcare in Zambia. These are the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child.

Problems in the Healthcare System

As public healthcare in Zambia remains incredibly underfunded, pharmacies in Zambia are not always well-stocked, and many deem emergency services inadequate. Additionally, inequities in public health care service access and utilization exist in the country. While 99% of households in urban areas are within five kilometers of a health facility, this close access occurs in only 50% of rural areas.

As a result of these deficiencies within the system, UNICEF reports that Zambia’s under-5 mortality rate is 57.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2009, 980,000 people lived with HIV/AIDS in Zambia, and 45,000 of those people died the same year due to the disease.

Lack of clean water has resulted in water- and food-borne diseases and epidemics that have been devastating Zambia for decades, including dysentery and cholera. These issues mainly affect impoverished areas, as overcrowding leads to sanitation issues. In the Kanyama slum in Lusaka, 15 households share one latrine when the weather is good. During the rainy season, Kanyama’s high water table causes the filling of 10,000 latrines with water. Areas like Kanyama require long-term infrastructure measures, such as sanitation, sewage lines and piped water.

The Path to Development

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established an office in Zambia in 2000 to address HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases. CDC support in Zambia includes expanding academic and clinical training programs with advanced technology at the University of Zambia and the University Teaching Hospital, and the development of a National Public Health Institute to strengthen public health surveillance. Moreover, CDC instituted a Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) to train a workforce of field epidemiologists to identify and contain disease outbreaks before they become epidemics. Exactly 42 epidemiologists have graduated from the program since December 2018.

In 2018, Zambia presented to the World Health Assembly in Geneva regarding the cholera outbreak by citing its efforts regarding vaccination, water safety and waste management. Additionally, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, worked with Zambia to fund and deliver 667,100 oral cholera vaccine doses to Lusaka slums after an outbreak that affected more than 5,700 people.

Looking Ahead

Most recently, Zambia embarked on the first round of its annual Child Health Week campaign from June 22- 26, 2020 to deliver child survival interventions to protect children and adolescents from deadly diseases. Furthermore, to promote fairness and equality, the campaign aims to improve children’s health by ensuring essential services reach children who do not benefit from routine health services. This campaign accelerates the country’s progress toward attaining the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for reducing child deaths by two-thirds by 2030, improving healthcare in Zambia overall.

The infrastructure for healthcare in Zambia is overall poor due to a lack of funding, poorly maintained facilities and supply shortages of medications and medical equipment. However, one step to a better healthcare system is to ensure equitable access to health services, especially for those who live in rural areas or slums. To reduce inequities, Zambia must strengthen primary facilities that serve the people who live in these regions and dismantle the existing barriers.

Isabella Thorpe
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 response in developing countries The COVID-19 response in developing countries has become the primary focus for health workers all over the developing world. The volume of COVID-19 patients is placing a strain on hospitals and health systems globally. This trend is especially notable in developing countries that already have limited health resources, medical supplies and medical staff

Other major global health focuses such as other infectious diseases, diarrheal diseases, cholera, Ebola and so many more are not getting the same level of attention. Basic health services such as maternal care, family planning and vaccination programs are being impacted. Health workers are being reassigned to COVID-19 patients and resources are redistributed to prioritize the pandemic. While lessons can be drawn from previous health crises such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, COVID-19 has spread on a global scale and will have a large impact on essential health services.

Immunization Programs

According to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, vaccine shortages due to border closures and limited air travel have been reported in at least 21 low- and middle-income countries. Additionally, 14 vaccination campaigns supported by GAVI have been delayed. These programs would have vaccinated 13.5 million people for diseases including polio, measles, cholera, HPV, yellow fever and meningitis. GAVI expects these numbers to increase as more programs are delayed. Outreach vaccination programs, where health workers travel to various communities with vaccines, and routine immunization programs are also negatively affected. Lockdowns and distancing efforts, as well as hygiene guidelines, are contributing to program delays. GAVI is planning to support large immunization programs as soon as the COVID-19 safety measures are no longer in place in order to address these disparities.

PATH Solutions

PATH proposes three steps to ensure the continuation of essential health services during the pandemic. The first action item is to appoint an “Essential Health Services Coordinator” per COVID-19 task force. This coordinator would make sure that COVID-19 distancing guidelines are not preventing individuals from accessing basic services. They would also identify any health service interruption from health management data and collaborate with directors and social groups to act based on community concerns. Second, PATH proposes that COVID-19 public updates should include information about essential health services. This is crucial so that people are aware of what services are available and do not stop requesting medical help for non-COVID-19 related issues. Finally, international agencies such as WHO, UNICEF and Africa CDC should supply developing countries with strategies for the most pressing issues such as protecting health workers, how to provide medical care for the most vulnerable in the population and how to maintain basic health services during the pandemic.

WHO Guidelines for Maintaining Essential Health Services

The World Health Organization has outlined important ways of maintaining essential health services during COVID-19 in developing countries. These guidelines include access to emergency health care 24/7, removing financial barriers that limit access to patients, identifying which services are essential and which can be delayed and taking advantage of telemedicine and digital methods of providing health care. Additionally, the WHO highlights the importance of identifying which individuals are most vulnerable in society, such as marginalized groups and ensuring these individuals have access to health care. The WHO has also outlined several essential health categories to specifically address during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include ethics, health financing, mental health, non-communicable diseases, nutrition and food safety, older people, tuberculosis and sexual and reproductive health and rights. The COVID-19 response in developing countries must ensure the continuation of essential health services.

– Maia Cullen
Photo: PATH

COVID-19 Response Plans
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is an international organization that Bill and Melinda Gates conceived and cofounded in the late 1990s. Its mission is to supply low-income countries with vaccinations they might otherwise have gone without. The organization has helped vaccinate more than 760 children. Additionally, it has saved more than 13 million lives in developing countries across the world. Gavi has recently aimed rigorous funding and supply distribution towards fighting COVID-19. The Vaccine Alliance has set aside $200 million for protective equipment, health care workers and increased testing with funding going towards low-income countries such as Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Sudan, Afghanistan, Liberia and Zimbabwe. Gavi’s 2020 initiatives and COVID-19 response plans are all efforts to prepare and provide for global health in the coming years.

The Alliance’s Fifth Phase

Gavi operates using a five-year strategic model and what it calls “phases”. With Phase I beginning in 2000, the alliance has followed this plan to the present day. In December 2019, the organization approved Phase V, a model that it will implement in 2021 and complete in 2025. Gavi tracks its success throughout these phases by creating specific goals in areas such as vaccines, equity and sustainability.

  1. The Vaccine Goal: The vaccine goal focuses on effective medical outreach and accessibility. It calls for the positive integration of vaccines into countries with the highest need. Gavi will then work with each country to identify its most prominent infection to decide which vaccination would be most helpful, also considering population when determining quantity. Further criteria of the vaccine goal include the continued introduction of immunizations that in turn will pave the way for proper health care and preparedness against preventable diseases.
  2. The Equity Goal: By bolstering health care systems, the equity goal promotes the importance of accessibility. With Gavi’s financial support, governments can prioritize “reaching the unreached.” This goal primarily deals with immunization delivery services and supply chains that will ensure the sustainability of accessible health care in that country. By ensuring that each individual receives what they need, the organization will cultivate further trust in immunization.
  3. The Sustainability Goal: The sustainability goal works to strengthen administrative support for immunizations. This support will hopefully call for a nationwide commitment towards eradicating death from preventable infections. By promoting public resources, instituting a system within the country to continue to fund immunizations and adding a system to ensure post-transition support, Gavi can safeguard accessible vaccines in developing countries.

The Gavi COMAX AMC

Inspired by its 2019 pneumococcal AMC commitment, Gavi announced The Gavi Advanced Market Commitment for COVID-19 vaccines (COMAX AMC) as one of its COVID-19 response plans at the Geneva June 2020 summit. Similar to previous market commitments for infections such as pneumococcal pneumonia and Ebola, this financial plan works to encourage vaccine makers to produce large quantities of immunizations without the worry of over-investing. Stock-piling now can guarantee that vaccines are available and have the ability to be distributed quickly in the future.

Gavi’s COMAX AMC has set a fundraising goal of $2 billion for a vaccine plan-ahead preparation. The first vaccine manufacturing company to contribute to this 2020 plan is AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford. Once a vaccine emerges, AstraZeneca promises to make 300 million dosages available to the world’s poor for distribution. AstraZeneca and Oxford have pledged to work without compensation through the entirety of the pandemic. Additionally, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPRI) will collaborate with COVAX AMC. Furthermore, CEPRI has offered to provide manufacturing funds.

The COVAX Facility

This global access facility works as an extension of the advanced market commitment. The Vaccine Alliance is calling for worldwide participation in a new fair-trade financial plan. Under the COVAX Facility umbrella, upper-middle and high-income countries will pool resources and share risk to create a structurally sound vaccine economy. These joint investments will embolden vaccine companies to intensify manufacturing. As a result, the price of a single vaccine will decrease, making distribution to lower-middle and low-income countries easier. The plan looks to take the uncertainty out of vaccine creation and vaccine investment. In this economic proposition, Gavi argues that COVID-19 is a global catastrophe that will require a global engagement to contain.

Gavi’s 2020 initiatives and COVID-19 response plans reference the importance of a unified approach when it comes to the creation and distribution of critical vaccines. Right now, there has been no successful formulation of a COVID-19 immunization, but Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance is doing what it can to provide monetary aid now as well as for the future.

– Alexa Tironi 
Photo: Wikimedia

Vaccines in Egypt On March 14, 2019, the vaccination company Pfizer, in partnership with Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance reduced the price of the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) to $2.90 per dose for eligible countries. Gavi’s mission since 2000 has been to “improve access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries”. Public and private sectors fund the creation and distribution of important vaccines in 73 developing countries partnered with Gavi.

The Benefit of Price Drops

In 2017, the price of a single dose PCV was $3.30. However, as a result of negotiations between Pfizer and Gavi there have been three pneumococcal vaccine price drops since January 2017. It is expected to save developing countries $4.1 million this year. Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi says “pneumonia remains the single largest cause of death for children worldwide and [the] pneumococcal vaccine is one of our largest weapons against it”. The price drop comes at a pivotal time.

PCV is a Priority

PCV takes as long as 15 years to reach developing countries that need it the most. Whereas the vaccine is already easily accessible and widespread in industrialized nations. Vaccines have not been easily accessible in developing nations. They are expensive and difficult to distribute effectively in nations lacking funds and resources. The focus is on different areas. For example, the proportion of developing countries’ exports that is needed to service their overseas debt rose from 11 percent in 1970 to 18 percent in 1996, while overseas aid from the U.S. plummeted $14 billion. With the drop in PCV pricing, developing countries can invest in their public health.

The value of vaccines as a long-term investment for developing countries is leading to pneumococcal vaccine price drops. Vaccinating the youth population of developing countries, according to Gavi, creates a “virtuous cycle”.

The Cycle Follows This Order of Cause and Effect

  • Children have vaccines before the age of two
  • These children are likely to be healthier and live longer
  • Children have fewer and less serious illnesses
  • This leads to lower care costs for health systems and family
  • Which means more family money available to spend or save
  • Children will attend school more, fueling better outcomes
  • A family’s economic outlook will strengthen based on these outcomes
  • Birth rates drop and mother’s health improves
  • A community becomes more economically stable and productive
  • Contributing to politically and economically stable countries

By looking at the cost-benefit analyses for vaccinations, scientists are able to see this “virtuous cycle” in action. A study, conducted by the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey in 1975, took data from a sample of Filipino children. Researchers compared test scores of children who received six vaccines in their first two years versus those that did not. The study reveals the association of immunization with improved IQ scores, language and mathematics tests. Untreated childhood illness can impair cognitive development.

Developing countries often have large obstacles to face such as food scarcity, a lack of widespread education and low GDPs. Investing in vaccines is a long-term solution that will benefit the economic, health, societal and governmental sectors of these nations. With the pneumococcal vaccine price drops, this seems to be an attainable reality for developing countries.

– Meredith Breda
Photo: Flickr

All You Need to Know About HPV in the Developing World
Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are DNA viruses that infect skin or mucosal cells. Depending on the severity of the infection, HPV can lead to either cervical cancer and other head and neck cancers or low-grade cervical tissue changes and genital warts. Virtually all cervical cancer cases result from a sexually transmitted infection with HPV.

Cervical Cancer and HPV in the Developing World

Globally, cervical cancer is known as the second most common cancer among women, with about 500,000 new cases being diagnosed annually. Of the total deaths that occur due to cervical cancer each year, more than 80 percent are concentrated in developing countries.

Immunization coupled with regular screenings and consistent treatments are the best strategies for reducing the burden of cervical cancer and HPV in the developing world. In resource-poor countries that lack adequate access to cancer screenings and treatment services, it is even more essential that younger girls be immunized before they are sexually active and are exposed to HPV.

The HPV Vaccine

The HPV vaccine protects against the strains that cause up to 90 percent of cervical cancer cases. It is typically available in most routine immunization programs of high-income countries. Historically, the major barriers to reducing the burden of cervical cancer and HPV in the developing world are due to the high costs of the HPV vaccines and the difficulty of reaching adolescent girls.

The GAVI Alliance–formally known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization–is a partnership of national governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Group, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the vaccine industry and many public health institutions. GAVI provides technical and financial support for vaccines in countries that have a gross national income of less than $1,000 per capita and other poverty-stricken countries including China, India and Indonesia.

Thanks to the efforts of GAVI, the HPV vaccine is at a record low price and the poorest countries are able to access it for as little as $4.50 per dose. Additionally, the WHO decided to change the recommended dosage of the HPV vaccine from three to two doses, which helped facilitate the country rollout of the vaccine as well as significantly reducing costs.

The first HPV vaccine demonstration program took place in Kenya in 2013, and since then, 1,000,000 girls have been vaccinated. By the end of 2016, GAVI had initiated HPV vaccine demonstration programs in 23 countries, which is the first step toward introducing the vaccine to national immunization programs. So far, Honduras, Rwanda and Uganda have introduced the HPV vaccine into their national immunization programs.

Potential Roadblocks in the Push for the HPV Vaccine

Unfortunately, the transition from the demonstration programs to national introductions is taking longer than expected for some countries. Consequently, GAVI has developed a new approach to HPV vaccine support, which draws from the valuable lessons learned from previous demonstration programs.

Some of these lessons include:

  1. The fact that school-based delivery works very well when administering the vaccine to young girls. It is more cost effective to integrate HPV immunization efforts into routine immunizations at existing health clinics and schools.
  2. When promoting HPV vaccination programs and cervical cancer prevention, the facilitation of effective and factual communication within the community is particularly critical.
  3. GAVI has made tremendous progress in reducing the prevalence of HPV in the developing world through its vaccination initiatives. Eight GAVI-supported countries have integrated the HPV vaccine into their national vaccination programs and 30 countries have started a demonstration program.

However, despite the strong signs of interest from GAVI-eligible countries and the rapid and effective integration of the HPV vaccine, GAVI’s original goal of immunizing 40,000,000 girls by 2020 may be at risk due to supply constraints.

GAVI chief executive Dr. Seth Berkley stated, “Scaling up cervical cancer prevention and control strategies should not be delayed, as we have the tools to achieve this goal. With the right commitment from vaccine manufacturers as well as political support, strategic partnerships and investments, this particular battle to improve women’s health can be won.”

Thus far, GAVI has helped low-income countries access the HPV vaccine at affordable and sustainable prices. Dr. Berkley is confident that the organization is capable of meeting its goal. GAVI is dedicated to ensuring that its progress is maintained and that millions of girls in the poorest of countries are protected from the perils of HPV and cervical cancer.

– Lolontika Hoque
Photo: Flickr

How Vaccines Reduce PovertyHealthcare expenses push about 100 million people into poverty every year. This average makes medical deprivation one of the main factors forcing families below the World Bank’s poverty line of less than $1.90 per day. More shockingly, this results in the deaths of more than 1.5 million children annually from diseases that can be prevented by vaccination. However, a study published by Health Affairs found that by 2030, vaccines can reduce poverty for 24 million people.

The Ways That Vaccines Reduce Poverty

Vaccines will have the greatest impact on reducing poverty caused by hepatitis B, helping an estimated 14 million people avoid medical bankruptcy. Cases of poverty caused by measles and meningitis A will also be reduced by vaccines, with an estimated five million and three million cases averted respectively. The measles vaccine is estimated to prevent by far the highest number of deaths: 22 million of the 36 million total.

The Harvard study, co-authored by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and a wide range of partners, modeled the health and economic impact of vaccines for 10 diseases in 41 developing countries. According to the study, the poorest 20 percent of the population from the study represented over a quarter of deaths preventable by vaccination. These findings assert the notion that vaccines reduce poverty when introduced to developing countries.

A healthy child is more likely to go to school and become a more productive member of society in later life. Their families can also avoid the crippling healthcare costs that diseases can bring. This is enough to save millions of people from the misery of extreme poverty when vaccines reduce poverty.

Addressing the Obstacles to Universal Vaccination

Vaccines have made possible some of the greatest public health successes of the past century. Basic childhood immunization is one of the few health interventions to which most of the world’s poor have access, free of charge and through the public sector. In fact, immunization is one of the most reasonable health interventions. Vaccines protect girls and boys alike, and reach the poor at higher rates.

However, according to Doctors Without Borders, there are multiple factors that make delivering vaccines to children in developing countries difficult. To start, the newest vaccines are often too expensive, mostly because of a lack of competition in the market, obstructing their use in developing countries. Secondly, there is a lack of research and development for better-adapted and needed vaccines, as there is little incentive for pharmaceutical companies to conduct R&D for diseases that affect populations with limited purchasing power. Lastly, weak health systems with corresponding health worker shortages make it difficult to administer the vaccines to those in need.

UNICEF Programs See Great Success in Improving Vaccination Rates

UNICEF is one of many organizations reaching out to aid developing countries in gaining easier access to vaccines. UNICEF works with partners in government, NGOs, other U.N. agencies and the private sector to provide immunization to the children who need it the most. UNICEF’s immunization program also helps identify those children that have been left behind by the health system and can bring other life-saving care to these mothers and children. UNICEF and its partners support immunization programs in more than 100 countries to help realize children’s right to survival and good health.

As a result of these programs, vaccines have reduced poverty in every country aided. In 2016, UNICEF procured 2.5 billion vaccine doses reaching almost half of the world’s children. Measles vaccinations averted an estimated 17.1 million deaths between 2000 and 2014. Since 2000, 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated and the number of polio cases has fallen by more than 99 percent, dropping to just 22 cases in 2017. Continued investments in immunization in low- and middle-income countries could avert up to 36 million deaths and 24 million cases of impoverishment due to medical costs. Thanks to these efforts, the world’s poor have affordable access to proper medication.

– Richard Zarrilli, Jr.
Photo: Flickr

 Ghana
In recent years, researchers, doctors and health organizations have begun to target the high rate of pneumonia deaths. As one of the largest causes of death in children, pneumonia and researchers’ search for its solutions have not been taken lightly. The Ghana Health Service and partner GAVI, supported by UNICEF, launched vaccines to combat the infection in 2012.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a bacterial, fungal or viral infection of the air-sacs in one’s lung or lungs, usually caused by the inhalation of specific or diseased germs. The infection causes fluid build up in the lungs, difficulty breathing, high fever, sweating, chills, chest pain and discoloration of fingertips. The best way to treat this infection is through immunizations and antibiotics.

Historically, pneumonia has been the leading cause of death in those under-five years old. Steps have occurred to decrease death rates from year-to-year, but yet unfortuantely, the number of deaths and the percentage of children lost to pneumonia is still staggering.

What Are the Impacts of Pneumonia?

In the year 2010 alone, pneumonia caused the deaths of 16,200 children, and the total number of deaths brought about because of pneumonia was a reported 13 percent. Subsequently, this percentage remained consistent between the years 2000 and 2010, and the percentage of deaths at the hands of this infection remained between twelve and thirteen percent, without substantial improvement.

Despite the decade-long absence of progress in pneumonia prevention and treatment, advancements have started taking place in more recent years. In April 2012, UNICEF supported the Ghana Health Service and partner GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, in launching pneumonia and diarrhea vaccines and the first ever World Immunization Week. The introduction of these vaccines to Ghana was a monumental step towards decreasing fatalities.

Ghana Health Service and its Aid

Although the establishment of vaccinations was a large logistical undertaking — including increasing hospital refrigeration storage in all ten regions of Ghana — the children of the country have benefited greatly from such measures. Pneumonia, for the first time ever in 2013, was not the leading cause of death for those under-five, though it was still the second-largest cause. Consequently, the total percentage of pneumonia causing fatalities decreased by 44 percent by 2015.

The installation of the pneumonia vaccine to Ghana has helped combat the vast amount of children who are annually impacted by the infection; however, there is still much progress to be made. As of 2017, UNICEF worked diligently to decrease pneumonia cases through fighting poor sanitation and open defecation.

How to Create Sustainable Solutions

To combat such massive undertakings, the organization implemented latrines and water pumps to as many communities as possible. Many have poured great effort into this ‘war against pneumonia’ and the Ghana Health Service, but measures must increase for significant and permanent changes to be sustained.

– Lydia Lamm

Photo: Flickr

Increase Child Immunization
Orange, GAVI and Côte d’Ivoire Ministry of Health are coming together for a mobile phone project, “M-Vaccin Côte d’Ivoire,” which will increase child immunization by focusing on regions with the lowest immunization rates in the Côte d’Ivoire.

GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance

GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, is dedicated to protecting children’s lives and health by providing immunizations in developing countries. Orange works towards providing technology to use as tools in both healthcare and also education and finances and believes that their digital outreach supports those aspects of underdeveloped countries.

The project will use Orange mobile technology to both inform parents about the importance of vaccinations through text and voice messages and to also make sure parents don’t forget about immunization appointments by sending reminders of the date and time of their child’s session.

Orange Technology

Orange will also be providing health care workers with the M-Vaccin mobile application that allows them to view data, create vaccination schedules for individual families they are caring for and monitor the results, which in turn should increase child immunization.

The partnership between these organizations will continue for five years; during this time, Orange and GAVI will combine to invest a collective $5.47 million in the project. Half of the investment will be from the GAVI Matching Fund, and the other half from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This funding will go to support the outreach program and provide both mobile devices to those in need and healthcare workers, and also inform citizens about the importance of immunizations, and keeping up with vaccination appointments and learning sessions.

Project Implementation

The Project will be implemented in the 29 districts of Côte d’Ivoire where immunization is lower than the national average. Many of the parents living in these districts aren’t fully informed about immunizations, and often aren’t living close enough to healthcare centers in the first place. Côte d’Ivoire’s infant mortality rates are some of the highest in the world, and only continue to increase; about half of children under age one are immunized.

The M-Vaccin Program

The M-Vaccin Program expects to reach more than 800,000 children and could possibly be expanded into other countries in West Africa upon evaluation. Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO if GAVI, said the partnership is really important for the children of Côte d’Ivoire, and that their parents do not receive enough information about vaccinations because of where they live.

Solving or working around these situational obstacles will significantly improve the rates of child immunization in the Côte d’Ivoire, and also hopefully serve as a catalyst for further increases in child immunization across the continent.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr