[Viewpoint]Immunizations and global health

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[Viewpoint]Immunizations and global health

We are all aware of the plight of millions of people in developing countries who suffer from diseases, lack of drugs at affordable prices and insufficient health care.
Too often, the consequence is that some terrible diseases endanger the survival and the economic and social development of entire nations, especially in Africa. We also know that investments in the good health of people, especially young people and children, are investments in the future of a country and in the growth of its economy and social welfare.
Relieving poorer nations by improving the health of their populations and immunizing them from lethal diseases, therefore, is a battle we must win. It is a key challenge for all nations and for the entire international community.
The needs are huge: around $25 billion to fight only AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, three of the most deadly pandemics which together account for over 6 million deaths every year. Several initiatives have been launched recently to find additional and predictable financial resources.
Eight countries ― Brazil, France, Italy, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom ―have set up a special mechanism: the International Finance Facility for Immunization. The aim of the facility is to help poorer countries invest in the health of their populations.
How does the facility work? In a very simple, yet effective way: Money is collected in the financial markets and used by developing countries to pay for immunization programs and to buy vaccines and drugs.
The money is collected by issuing bonds that are backed by the eight donor nations. In this way, it is possible to more effectively channel public funds to support the achievement of the Millennium Develop-ment Goals (the goals set by the United Nations to overcome poverty and underdevelopment in the world) by front-loading overseas aid.
Estimates say that thanks to the facility, up to 10 million lives could be saved by 2015. As you can see, the International Finance Facility for Immunization is an effective and powerful tool to speed up the fight against poverty and underdevelopment by enhancing the health of people and fighting diseases. That is why this new system was welcomed by many distinguished moral leaders and personalities, such as the Roman Catholic Church and Bill Gates.
Other innovative financing mechanisms are the “Advanced Market Commitment,” which is aimed at facilitating the development and the production of new, innovative vaccines and drugs, and an international drug purchase facility called Unitaid, launched in September. Financed through the proceeds of air-ticket solidarity levies or budgetary contributions, it helps the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Korea, which is an active member of Unitaid, should be congratulated for its commitment to this fight.
The International Finance Facility for Immunizations is the latest addition to the set of innovative financing mechanisms. Its first bonds were issued on Nov. 7, 2006, exactly 100 days ago, and other issues will follow.
We take the opportunity of these first 100 days since the launch of the facility in the financial markets to draw the attention of Korean public opinion and Korean policy makers to this important mechanism. Korea is a rich country, a full member of the OECD, and plays an ever bigger role in the field of official development aid. Over the last 40 years, the Republic of Korea has enjoyed remarkable economic growth and has prospered from its successful integration into the global economy. Using these same benefits of globalization that lifted many Koreans out of poverty, the immunization finance facility mechanism will help millions of the world’s poorest people escape the burden of some terrible diseases, and so assist in their own long-term prosperity.
We, the undersigned representatives of the governments which founded the facility, believe that the Republic of Korea appreciates its importance as an instrument in fighting global diseases and poverty. We sincerely hope that Korea will consider participating in the project.

Celina M. Assumpcao do Valle Pereira,
Ambassador of Brazil

Philippe Thiebaud,
Ambassador of France

Massimo Andrea Leggeeri,
Ambassador of Italy

Didrik Tonseth,
Ambassador of Norway

Stefanus Johannes Schoeman,
Ambassador of South Africa

Delfin Colome,
Ambassador of Spain

Lars Vargo,
Ambassador of Sweden

Warwick Morris,
Ambassador of the United Kingdom

*The writers are the ambassadors to Korea of the founding nations of the International Finance Facility for Immunizations.

by Ambassadors
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