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Saturday, June 7, 2008

GAVI's Immunize Every Child Campaign fundraiser

London, United Kingdom

"Thank you, Julian, for your kind words, and for all your hard work at the helm of GAVI. And to Alisa and Josh, thank you so much for opening your beautiful home to us this evening. It is lovely to meet you and your young family, and makes me wish I had brought Salma and Hashem, my two youngest as well…but why shatter the peace of the English countryside?!

Let me start by asking you to raise your hand if you’re a mother.

The writer, Charlotte Gray once said:

 “Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on, each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate.”

I’m sure that sentiment touches all of you, as it touches me - a mother of four. It is, in large part, that sentiment that drives my work with GAVI, and brings me here today.

Because having vaccinated Hussein, Iman, Salma, and Hashem to keep them safe from sickness and disease, I feel strongly that every child of every mother deserves the same protection and care as my children, and your children.

We have been lucky to raise our children in environments where things like health care, nutrition, and education can be taken for granted. But for millions of children around the world, life hangs on the slenderest thread – a knit cap to keep warm… clean water to drink… the means to ward off a mosquito.

And while British, American, and Jordanian children may dream about what they want to be when they grow up, for millions of children around the world, just to make it to the age of five is an achievement.

Children like them are counting on us to give them a fighting chance. And GAVI is bringing that noble vision closer to reality each day – saving lives… promoting research… and strengthening health systems worldwide.

Since GAVI was launched, some 3 million deaths have been prevented.

And to ensure that kind of success continues, we have mobilized over $3 billion from governments and foundations to support immunization programs in more than 70 countries.

Thanks to the enlightened leadership of the United Kingdom, we partnered with the World Bank and others to establish the $4 billion International Finance Facility for Immunization, or IFFIm, which is helping poor countries improve their own health care systems.

Soon we’ll launch an Advance Market Commitment pilot project to bring a new vaccine for pneumococcal disease to market in just a few years, instead of 10 to 15 years– potentially saving the lives of more than 700,000 additional children each year.

The problem of childhood disease is real, but solutions are within our reach – as I’ve been privileged to see first-hand in my travels with GAVI and UNICEF.

In New Delhi, I met the devoted staff of the Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital. Its vaccine program is injecting the community with health and hope – offering a low-cost, lasting way to help children stay well and grow strong.

I met a 4-month old baby girl named Snetha and her proud parents. They had brought Snetha in for her polio drops, which I had the privilege to give. Last year, the IFFIm delivered more than $190 million to advance the eradication of polio. It’s a massive investment, and it’s paying off – one beautiful baby at a time.

In China, I visited a health care clinic for rural migrant women and their families. The mothers I met there were determined to give their children the best possible start in life – with the immunizations that would shield their sons and daughters from deadly disease. And I didn’t need to speak a word of Chinese to understand just how they felt.

For me, that heartfelt, human connection is what gives this endeavor such value. GAVI’s work may seem complex, but the idea that underwrites it is very simple. All children deserve the best start in life… so they’ll have a life to look forward to.

And they are relying on us –the mothers and fathers of all the world’s children – to ensure that no child, no matter where he or she is born, should have to die of a preventable disease.

Someday, with the support of people like you, no child ever will.

Thank you very much."