Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about Unicef’s report on ending preventable child deaths.
It is heartbreaking that in 2018, 5.3 million children under the age of five died largely from preventable causes, such as malnutrition, pneumonia, diarrhoea and a lack of access to vaccinations. With ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – including Goal 3.2 on ending all preventable deaths of newborns and children under five – we must redouble our efforts to ensure every child can realise their right to a healthy life.
I agree that the UK must show global leadership on driving progress forward on child survival, including at the replenishment conference for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in London in June and at the Nutrition for Growth Summit in Japan in December. The UK Government says it hopes to set out a detailed strategy in the coming weeks on how it plans to achieve the 2030 goal of ending preventable deaths. I await the publication of this strategy.
The UK has provided £1.44 billion of support to Gavi from 2016 to 2020, which has helped save 1.4 million lives from vaccine-preventable diseases. I urge the UK Government to make a significant pledge to ensure that Gavi is fully funded for the new period up until 2025 and to make the pledge promptly enough to encourage other donors to do likewise.
If we are to achieve the SDGs, we must do far more than just providing funds to these bodies. We must tackle the root causes of poverty and inequality that mean too many children are dying from preventable causes, and we must champion long-term systemic change.
For example, we must do much more to support countries to invest in public, free health services. I believe we should set up a new dedicated Unit for Public Services within the Department for International Development to help countries to invest in their public services and uphold basic rights to health, education and clean water for everyone.
We need a fairer international patent regime that does not prevent developing countries from accessing essential public health medicines. We must also invest in public health-driven research and development to find effective and affordable treatments for diseases such as TB, malaria, HIV/AIDS and neglected tropical diseases.