Why Political Commitment to Immunisation Matters

October 2013 GaviAlliance; Lord Boateng of the UK Parliament helped kick-off the Mid-Term Review meeting by hosting a panel discussion exploring the importance of parliamentary commitment to immunisation- among MPs in donor and implementing countries

Cross-party commitment

Lord Boateng, MP, United Kingdom Parliament: “GAVI crosses all political boundaries. We come together regardless of our political affiliation for the good that GAVI does. All parliamentarians at last year’s Partners’ Forum in Tanzania signed a declaration that recognised GAVI and its model is a cost-effective approach that is saving lives. But if it is to go on doing its valuable work, GAVI needs resourcing and commitment.”

Gregoire Lusenge Kakule, MP, Democratic Republic of Congo: “We work across party borders. We have made sure that MPs understand health and immunisation does not divide parties.”

Huda Oleru, MP, Uganda: “For any political leader to lead, he or she needs a healthy population. Therefore, if you don’t support immunisation, you are not a leader. Every political leader must know that immunisation is the right of every child and that continual support must be given through financial planning and commitment. “

Kenneth Forslund, MP, Sweden: “I’ve been very impressed by the effort of GAVI to bring politicians, civil society, international organisations and the medical industry together at one table and have them cooperate with each other and reach common conclusions. I can only imagine the hardwork behind the scenes.”

Elisabeth B. Rahm, MP, Sweden: “We have to work with the same goal: that if we can’t give vaccines to children, then we won’t be able to continue development in the right direction.” Financial commitment

Lord Boateng, MP, United Kingdom Parliament: “How can parliamentarians, working with civil society, ensure that Governments devote significant resources and commitment to public health interventions and public health infrastructure, of which vaccines and immunisation are a part?”

Gregoire Lusenge Kakule, MP, Democratic Republic of Congo: “Despite the difficulties in our country, we committed ourselves to make sure that the budget for immunisation increases. We study the necessities of the Expanded Programme for Immunisaton (EPI). Then, when we get the budget for the EPI, we find watchdogs in parliament to make sure it is not reduced. When the finance minister and MPs discuss cuts in budget lines, a member of the parliamentary committee for finance ensures that immunisation is not touched.”

Elisabeth B. Rahm, MP, Sweden: “We have one percent of GNP as our main target for development aid which we managed to keep for many years. It’s important that we have a discussion in parliament about where the money does most good … , but we don’t do it alone. We work with a lot or organistions to maintain these goals.”

Huda Oleru, MP, Uganda: “In the whole of Africa, our executive is more interested in infrastructure – roads, railway and other sectors. Therefore health has become a second priority. We need to put pressure on the ruling executive to show what will be the value of new roads to unhealthy people who have become economically inactive.”

Legal commitment

Lord Boateng, MP, United Kingdom Parliament: “It’s important to get a basic law in place so you have a legal base in place for legal strategies. Power concedes nothing without a demand, so the law embodies the demand and empowers you to make a demand on behalf of the children that need vaccines.

Gregoire Lusenge Kakule, MP, Democratic Republic of Congo: “When we have a legal base, the Government cannot work against us. Since 2009,with support from GAVI, WHO and UNICEF, we have proposed legislation to guarantee that the government would allocate some money for vaccination campaigns. Now, each time that we are informed that a certain million has been budgeted (for immunisation), as MPs, we follow the budget to make sure that funding is executed.”

Civil society commitment

Lord Boateng, MP, United Kingdom Parliament: “The link between parliament and civil society is crucial to our mission. Reaching that untouched fifth child is not going to happen without parliamentarians and civil society working together.”

Huda Oleru, MP, Uganda: “In my parliament, there are many MPs interested in immunisation,. They partner with civil society … to celebrate world immunisation days. We use those days to communicate about the successes we have achieved.”

Gregoire Lusenge Kakule, MP, Democratic Republic of Congo: “MPs can work as educators, We have nine percent of women who take their children to be immunised the first time but do not come back again. MPs and civil societies have a role to play in education.”

Grassroots commitment

Gregoire Lusenge Kakule, MP, Democratic Republic of Congo: “Sometimes you have traditional leaders who do not want immunisation, who are against vaccinations. As political leaders, we try to explain that immunisation means life. It is a tool for life. A child that is vaccinated can live and that’s thanks to GAVI, WHO, UNICEF.”

Huda Oleru, MP, Uganda: “In my country, 100 MPs signed a letter asking for GAVI support to introduce human papillomavirus vaccine. It’s now in 14 districts.”

 

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