The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, have announced pledges of $50 million each for the purchase and delivery of vital vaccines in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Two-thirds of the funds will be awarded to the GAVI Alliance for the purchase and distribution of the pentavalent and pneumococcal vaccines in Afghanistan, while the remaining funds will go to the World Health Organization and UNICEF to deliver polio vaccines in both countries. The goals of the effort are to immunize approximately five million Afghan children under the age of 5 against six deadly diseases — pneumonia, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenza type B (HiB), which causes meningitis — and, through WHO and UNICEF, to administer polio vaccinations to approximately thirty-five million children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, two of the four countries in the world where polio remains endemic.
Providing vaccines for children in the region is needed not only because of ongoing armed conflicts there, but also because of an unequal distribution of health services and low immunization levels within both countries, as well as the slow pace of recovery from last year's monsoon floods in Pakistan. The need for vaccines is especially pressing in Afghanistan, where mortality rates for infants and children under the age of 5 are among the highest in the world.
"Like all children, the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan deserve the quality of health and opportunities that childhood immunization can provide," said Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. "The personal, community, national, and international benefits that will result from a generation growing up protected from preventable diseases have the potential to resonate for generations to come."