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.


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

Gates Foundation ReportThe recently published Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation report entitled ‘Goalkeepers: The Story Behind the Data’ seeks to highlight the progress made by public health workers and governments around the world in the fight against poverty and infectious diseases. The Foundation plans on publishing a Goalkeepers report every year until 2030. Their main objective is to demonstrate that investments in the fight against global poverty truly do have an impact, thus fighting skepticism of foreign aid. This year’s report puts the progress in this area in perspective; contrary to what seems to be a prevailing pessimism about the state of the world, the 2017 Goalkeepers report clearly demonstrates that the “world is better now than 25 years ago”.

The report uses 18 data points from the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, signed in 2015 by world leaders, that are particularly relevant to health and well-being, such as infant mortality and vaccination. Although improvement is stagnating, a majority of the indices show great improvement in the last two decades. Since 1990, more than 100 million lives of children five years or younger have been saved. The rate of infant mortality per 1,000 has dropped from 85 to 38. Maternal deaths have fallen from 275 per 100,000 live births to 179 in 2016.

The report shows that the world is better now than 25 years ago for a large portion of its most vulnerable members. Under the World Bank definition of poverty (living under $1.90 a day), the global poverty rate has decreased from 35 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2016.

In terms of health and the fight against infectious disease, the report also emphatically demonstrates how the world is better now than 25 years ago. HIV, for example, has had a remarkable decline in the past two decades, from 0.6 deaths per 1,000 people to 0.25 in 2016. Smoking rates have also significantly improved around the world. In 1990, 22 percent of people 10 years or older smoked; today, that number has dropped to 16 percent. The most impressive improvement is in widespread vaccination, which the report claims is “one of the most impressive public health stories in global health”. 89 percent of target populations have been covered by the eight major vaccines, compared to 73 percent in 1990.

The Sustainable Development Goals have a 2030 deadline, which is why the Gates Foundation report will be released every year until then. Although the numbers demonstrate that the world is better now than 25 years ago, Bill Gates has expressed some concern over a decline and stagnation in funds directed towards foreign aid and global health, especially in the fight against HIV. The remarkable feat of progress achieved so far by the international community at large should serve as an impetus for continued and increased funding, something the Gates Foundation intends to push for.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr


Mobile banking and money transfers are growing in popularity. Kenya has more active accounts than it does people. But how exactly can mobile banking make a positive impact on the developing world?

The total value of worldwide transactions made on mobile phones in 2013 was $24 billion. The top five countries with the highest number of active bank accounts are all in the developing world: Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Cameroon.

Such is the potential of mobile banking that Bill and Melinda Gates have made it their next target, believing that “mobile banking will help the poor transform their lives.”

Instead of storing wealth physically, with things like livestock, jewelry or even stuffing money in mattresses, mobile banking enables people a safer and more “mobile” way to manage their money. There is less potential for depreciation or loss of wealth when money is stored in a bank – a bank cannot get sick and die, unlike a cow.

Furthermore, if only a small amount of money is needed for a minor home repair or a few groceries, it makes sense to use a small amount and pay through a phone connected to your bank instead of taking a cow or piece of jewelry however far is necessary to sell for more money than might be needed in the immediate future. Mobile banking also makes the opposite more possible – again, livestock can die which makes saving money for the long term more difficult, but access to a mobile bank makes it simpler to save for children’s education, a payment for a car or just a rainy day.

Another positive impact of mobile banking is that it reduces the amount of time spent and distance traveled to go to a physical bank, sell livestock or make a payment. Transfers, deposits and payments can be completed in an instant instead of walking to the nearest bank or market.

In the same way, mobile banking also benefits farmers. Without mobile banking, farmers bring crops to town and leave them with a seller who has a vegetable stand before returning home. The farmer then has to return to town, hope that he can find the seller and collect his money. This whole scenario has the potential for loss of money and long journeys. Plus, what if the farmer needs money before he can come to town to collect it?

Mobile banking can eliminate all these potential issues if brought into play. Instead of the farmer making a second trip to collect his money, the seller can transfer it to the farmer as soon as his produce sells, from phone to phone in an instant.

A perfect example of the positive impact mobile banking is capable of having on the developing world is M-Pesa, which was one of the first systems to start enabling payments by mobile phone. Based in Kenya, the company “developed a system for transferring micro-credits via cell phones supported by a network of agents. This system was initially intended to drive local development and its objective was to reduce funding costs, but it found its real niche for its use with the payment options it offers.”

This way of making payments moved around the obstacle of cash access in Kenya, which is relatively difficult due to the technology and infrastructure needed to set up an ATM system. Instead, making a payment via an SMS text saves time and is easier for individuals – the way forward for banking and improving lives in the developing world.

Greg Baker

Sources: Huffington Post, New York Times, BBVS Innovation Center, CNN, The Economist
Photo: AVG Now

Whether they’re lifelong philanthropists or newcomers, the following public figures have all captured the media spotlight at one point or another, drawing attention to humanitarian causes in unique and exceptional ways. Here are the top five most viral humanitarians.

1. Casey Neistat

Despite being one of the newest faces in advocacy, filmmaker Casey Neistat has a well-established fan base of YouTube followers. He also has an eclectic filmography including work for HBO, The New York Times, Nike and Mercedes. Casey’s most recent hit was a December 2013 viral video titled “What Would You Do with $25,000?”

Twentieth Century Fox offered Neistat $25,000 to produce a promotional video for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but instead he used the funds for a typhoon relief mission in the Philippines. In the short six minute video, he documented his trip every single step of the way—from his arrival, to buying provisions, to renting a bus to transport goods to typhoon victims. The relief effort and the video were a huge success, garnering close to three million views.

2. Romeo Dallaire

Romeo Dallaire is a retired Lieutenant-General of the Canadian Army and current Senator from Quebec who was at the frontline of the Rwandan Genocide in the early 1990s. As the Force Commander for the UNAMIR peacekeeping operation in Rwanda, Dallaire saw the nation descend into genocide between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups. Accompanied by a minimal peacekeeping group with few resources (as well as direct orders to stay put and not to engage) Dallaire’s reports of the escalating violence were lost amidst the bureaucracy of United Nations leaders and U.S. government officials.

His 2003 memoir, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, brought the issue to light for the whole world and was later accompanied by both a documentary in 2004 and a feature drama in 2007 of the same name. Since then, Dallaire has developed the Will to Intervene (W2I) Project for the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University.

The project provides governments, journalists and NGOs with policy recommendations for dealing with future potential crises. Dallaire has kept up appearances through annual university tours across Canada. He was played by Nick Nolte in Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda, which deals with the genocide from the perspective of local hotel owner Paul Rusesabagina.

3. Bill Nye

Most of us know William Sanford Nye as “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” the adorably goofy yet informative character from Disney and PBS’s television show. The show, which aired for five seasons from 1993-1998, is still viewed today in grade school classrooms throughout the country. Essentially, Bill Nye is like the Mr. Rogers of science, and perhaps the only celebrity to hold both a list of Emmy Awards and Honorary PhDs.

Bill Nye’s 2005 project The Eyes of New targeted an older audience and went beyond the actuarial sciences to tackle issues such as population growth, nuclear energy, race, and climate change. His wide range of media appearances include stints on “Dancing with the Stars,” “Larry King Live,” “N3mbers,” and a highly anticipated debate with Ken Ham—not to mention last year’s very viral death hoax, and this year’s presidential selfie.

Recently, he brought his brand of “edutainment” to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with a short video dispelling popular poverty myths as part of the #StopTheMyth movement. Nye’s mix of fact-based research and humor has made him one of the most talked about scientists of today and a true viral humanitarian.

4. Jason Russell

Jason Russell’s Kony 2012 campaign is what happens when a video goes too viral too fast—as well as how easily a personal incident can bring scrutiny upon a humanitarian effort. Invisible Children is an organization founded by Jason Russell in 2004 to raise awareness about Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, a group that has since become synonymous with child soldiers and war crimes.

The Kony 2012 short film, dedicated to bringing Joseph Kony to the International Criminal Court, was met with widespread, unprecedented support from social media networks and young people across the globe.

First posted on March 5, 2012, the video currently holds almost a 100 million views. But amidst all the criticism, financial scrutiny, stone-throwing, and lampooning, what few people realize is that Russell’s efforts were overwhelmingly successful at bringing Joseph Kony to the forefront of media attention.

Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) all participated in a bipartisan resolution to place a bounty on Kony just weeks after the video’s release. A year later, the U.S. put up an additional $5 million bounty as part of the War Crimes Rewards Program, just as the AU and Uganda called off their own search efforts. Moreover, the film brought a surge of interest into U.S. foreign policy toward Africa and the workings of the International Criminal Court.

5. Bill and Melinda Gates

Bill and Melinda Gates are very savvy with the internet—which shouldn’t be surprising considering Gates’ Microsoft helped make online culture into what it is today. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, founded in 1997, is an expansive organization that focuses on global health, agricultural development, family planning, vaccines and disease.

Recently, the philanthrocapitalist duo released their annual letter addressing “3 Myths That Block Progress for the Poor”. A summarized version of the letter was published by BuzzFeed last month as “9 Reasons The World is Better Than Ever”. From their #StopTheMyth hash-tagging project to their clever GIF demonstrations, the two show impressive diligence in informing the millennial internet culture.

What’s important to note is how the above figures draw attention to causes in very new and unconventional ways. The philanthropists of yesterday used the power of Hollywood and the prestige of the music industry to advocate their causes. Today, they fight for the support of internet communities and social media users rather than viewers and listeners. Whether it’s Jason Russell’s aggressive viral sharing, Gates’ Reddit AMA’s, or Neistat’s hands-on charity work, they’ve reached new crowds with new media, making significant change along the way.

– Dmitriy Synkov

Sources: Casey Neistat, Parliament of Canada, W2I, Bill Nye CV, Invisible Children, Politico, Gates Foundation
Photo: Glass Door

While many people know cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally, few realize cancer has become a significant burden on the developing world. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports more than 60 percent of new cancer cases occur in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, concluding that cancer in the developing world accounts for more than 70 percent of all cancer deaths.

In 2012, there were 14.1 new cases of cancer, compared with 12.7 million new cases in 2008. Part of the reason for this is globally, the population is aging. Developing nations are seeing an increase in many cancers because people living longer and having a change in lifestyle. Many people in developing countries are adopting the lifestyles of those in industrialized nations and are now facing new risk factors such as poor diet, obesity and smoking. This is causing an increase in common cancers such as breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer.

Breast cancer was the most common cause of death in women in 2012. Treatments and testing for breast cancer that are available in industrialized countries have not yet reached the developing world. Cancers caused by infections such as cervical cancer (often caused by the Human Papilloma Virus [HPV]) also cause more deaths in the developing world because there are fewer screening and treatment programs for the disease.

As a result of gains by global health professionals, such as the reduction in infectious disease and the decrease in the child mortality rate, many more people in developing countries live to older ages. Unfortunately, work in chronic disease prevention and intervention needs to catch up. Developing countries do not have the resources to screen, prevent and treat chronic diseases such as cancer.

Global health has historically been focused on communicable (or infectious) diseases. Julio Frenk, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, says there needs to be a switch in thinking that allows for a more comprehensive view of global health. First, because communicable and non-communicable infections are not as separate as once thought. The WHO estimates that one fifth of cancers are caused by communicable infections such as HIV, HPV, hepatitis B virus, and Helicobacter pylori. In addition, infections, hunger and maternal deaths are no longer the only problems of the poor. The world’s poor people are increasingly prone to non-communicable diseases and injury.

There is a misconception that because there are “bigger fish to fry,” such as infectious diseases and poverty, people should not worry about cancer. However, in many middle-income countries, cancer is now one of the leading causes of death and yet it still receives little attention. There is also the issue of having access to screening be inequitable. In middle-income countries, only the most affluent people have access to cancer screening.

Fortunately, information is beginning to be spread about the need to add cancer to the global public health agenda. Bill and Melinda Gates gave a $50 million grant to create the Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention.

– Elizabeth Brown

Sources: WHO, CBC, HSPH
Photo: UN Special