Need holiday conversation starters? Talk about diarrhea

December 19, 2012
by Crickett Nicovich, Senior Policy Associate

Diarrhea: an uncomfortable subject matter for most people in the U.S. and almost never talked about at a fancy cocktail party. But there we were, over 600 people attending an official event at the Tanzanian President’s State House, talking about none other than diarrhea!

As the second leading killer of kids under the age of five around the word (right behind pneumonia at number one), we can’t keep the conversation about diarrhea to polite company.

Everyone should be talking about how to prevent and treat it!

And for three days in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania at the GAVI Alliance Partners’ Forum, everyone was talking about it, as well as the rotavirus vaccine that prevents a majority of the most severe cases of diarrhea.

The GAVI Alliance is a multilateral fund that supports developing countries getting new and underused vaccines when they become available in developed countries. And, the fifth GAVI Partners’ Forum brought together every kind of global health nerd you can imagine. Even at a swanky event, these are the people who want to talk about diarrhea, pneumonia, and other diseases of poverty. You get them really excited talking about how to build a better cold chain to ensure vaccines are kept at a stable temperature. This was definitely my kind of crowd.

One of the most talked about issues at the forum was about “reaching the fifth child.” A few years ago UNICEF reported that the hardest to reach children would be the ones that would most benefit from access to health services like these life-saving vaccines. Yet, one in five children remains under vaccinated. RESULTS’ global health partnership, ACTION, collaborated with Save the Children UK this year to release a report about equity in access to vaccines titled “Finding the Final Fifth” to begin to highlight the need for filling the gaps in health services.

During a session on equity and vaccines a speaker reminded us, “The problem with reaching the fifth child is that she is not standing next to the other four children.” While equity was a central theme of the week, figuring out how to reach the hardest to reach children is one of the greatest hurdles we continue to face in ensuring all children can access life-saving vaccines.

After the June Child Survival Call to Action, the U.S. committed to ending preventable child death by the year 2035. Access to the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines to prevent the two leading causes of death in children under five is going to be an integral part of reaching that goal. Excitingly, Tanzania started to roll-out these vaccines during the forum.

Check out the pictures from the GAVI Partners’ Forum website to see more.

2013 will be monumental as these new vaccines become available through GAVI support in even more countries. The U.S. support for GAVI and the roll out of the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines continues to save lives.

Our work in 2013 to uphold the U.S. pledge to GAVI and to build a path to reach the 5th child with equitable access to life-saving health interventions will get us closer to the goal of ending preventable child deaths within a generation.

So, as you gather with neighbors and families to celebrate a new year over eggnog or spiced cider, who can you talk to about child survival and ending diarrhea?


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