Rwanda: African football, political leaders partner Gavi on immunization

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) - Africa United partners on Sunday launched a new initiative on universal access to immunization called "Every Shot Counts" at the final of the Orange African Nations Championship in Rwanda.

The initiative is the latest focus of Africa United partners - the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the African Union, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Bank Group and the CDC Foundation - who first joined together last year to tackle Ebola, according to a statement by the Africa United partners.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, President of CAF Issa Hayatou and Gavi Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Seth Berkley, presided over a pledging ceremony which signaled the partners' commitment to achieving universal access to immunisation across the African continent. A video highlighting the partners' leadership was premiered at the African Nations Championship final immediately after the pledging ceremony.

"We are pleased to lend our support to this important initiative," said President Kagame. "Ensuring that universal immunisation is effectively achieved for all Rwandans has always been a priority for us; this is, in fact, how we are accountable to the people of Rwanda. Therefore, ensuring that children of Rwanda do not die from preventable diseases is a top priority. We are committed to universal immunisation because Rwandans deserve it. I call on every African leader to join us in the fight against preventable child death and to join in the fight for universal access to immunisation."

Immunisation is crucial to saving the lives of all children. In Africa, the measles vaccine has reduced measles deaths by 88% from 2000 to 2012, while vaccines have also left the continent on the verge of being polio-free.

However, globally, close to 19 million children are still not fully vaccinated with even the most basic vaccines. Nearly one quarter of these children live in Africa which is home to five out of the six countries in the world with immunisation coverage rates of less than 50%.

"We see that football unites people from all across Africa and beyond," said Issa Hayatou, President of CAF. "At CAF, we are committed to using the power of football to make sure that our players, future players, and most importantly, our fans, lead healthy lives. We are so excited to announce our partnership with the African Union and with Gavi through Africa United's 'Every Shot Counts' campaign. Together, we will support efforts to immunize millions of children in Africa by 2020."

Gavi has joined Africa United partners to encourage the use of all available health services and promote access to routine immunisation. Since 2000, Gavi has helped 40 African countries reach a total of 240 million children with life-saving vaccines.

"Immunisation is one of the best investments a country can make in the future of its children. In football, defence win matches. In health, it saves lives and vaccines offer the strongest defensive line against deadly diseases. They protect the long-term health and prosperity of families, communities and nations," said Dr Berkley.

"Standing here today among thousands of football fans, I am greatly encouraged by the support of Africa's political and sporting leaders in pursuit of universal immunisation. Football captures the attention of millions of people across this great continent. Now we are all members of the same team as we strive to ensure that every vaccine shot counts."
-0- PANA MA 7Feb2016

07 february 2016 21:00:16

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