Lack of vaccines kills 4,000 children every day

Developed and less developed countries (LDCs) countries were criticised at the meeting of UNICEF in Cape Town, South Africa. The former do not honour their promises and the latter are accused, in many cases, of squandering money on arms.

According to UNICEF, nearly four thousand children die per day, every day, due to lack of vaccinations, which are a birthright of every child in developed nations. Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, declared that “There is a serious lack of vaccines at a world level” and warns that the situation will deteriorate rapidly if urgent action is not taken.

Graca Machel, wife of Nelson Mandela and former widow of the first President of Mozambique, Samora Machel, described children as “precious presents” which adults everywhere have the duty to protect. “Our leaders make these promises over and over again,” she said, “the problem being that we make these promises and then we do not fulfil them. We have been making beautiful speeches, trading phrases and making noble promises, only to fail in their execution”, she added. Graca Machel is the Vice President of the International Vaccination Fund.

UNICEF provides around 40% of vaccines at a worldwide level. The rest is supposed to come from the developed nations, who promised to supply 0.7% of their GDP for health donor programmes in the 1970s. Only Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands have honoured this promise, most other countries falling behind 3%.

Moreover, inoculation programmes are financed traditionally for one-year periods. However, it takes two years to mass-produce vaccines. This situation has led to a virtual halt in many vaccination programmes for the last three years, since financial commitment promises end half-way through the programme.

The South African Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, called the 4,000 deaths a day “a collective conscience crisis for governments”. However, during the UNICEF meeting, Graca Machel also criticised LDCs, accusing them of spending public funds on military budgets rather than supplying basic needs to their people.

Graca Machel claimed “We will not fulfil our objectives until such governments reorganise their respective budgets so as to prioritise the children’s health and well-being”.