Brown hopes to save 10 million children with vaccination plan

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Indy Politics

People will be urged today to pay £20 to immunise a child in the developing world as part of a worldwide effort to save up to 10 million lives.

Gordon Brown will make the appeal when he sells the first bonds under an ambitious US$4bn (£2.2bn) scheme to ensure that an extra 500 million children in 70 of the world's poorest countries are vaccinated during the next 10 years against preventable diseases such as polio, measles, hepatitis and diptheria.

Religious leaders from all the main faiths will join forces in London to support the scheme by buying the first bonds in an initial sale expected to raise $1bn. The project was proposed by Mr Brown five years ago.

Under the "international finance facility", donor countries and backers make long-term financial commitments which are used as collateral for bonds, the sale of which allows aid to be brought forward and children to be vaccinated much sooner.

About 2.5 million children under the age of five die from diseases which are, or soon will be, preventable by vaccination - a child every 12 seconds. Some childen are protected against some but not all illnesses.

The Chancellor will say: "Millions of people campaigned to Make Poverty History last year, and now we can say to them all: we are delivering the promises we made, your hopes are becoming a reality, and millions of young children's lives will be saved as a result." He will hail the scheme as unique because it combines "financial strength with moral purpose".

Writing in The Independent today, Mr Brown and the Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose foundation gave $1.5bn to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), say that the fund has prevented about 1.7 million deaths by immunising 115 million children since 2000. But they warn that nearly 30 million children miss out on essential immunisations each year.

Mr Brown and Mr Gates urged other donors to back the bonds scheme. "Our job is far from over. More countries need to make the serious long-term commitment to saving lives with vaccines," they say. The British Government has pledged £1.38bn and it is being supported by France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Brazil and South Africa.

"Front loading" the aid will ensure more lives are saved than would otherwise have been if the same amount of money was spread over a number of years. It should prevent five million deaths by 2015 and a further five million in later years. It also saves money because less wil be spent on the terrible toll of the diseases.

Mr Brown hopes the project will help eradicate polio, as smallpox was eliminated between 1965 and 1980 under a vaccination campaign led by the World Health Organisation.

The first bond will be bought on behalf of the Pope, with the next five purchased by The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Hindu Forum of Britain and the Network of Sikh Organisations. Mr Brown sees it as an example of how the world's faiths, working together, can help to achieve real change.

Today's ceremony will be attended by Queen Rania of Jordan, who serves on the board of GAVI. Other early buyers of bonds will include Bono and Bob Geldof.

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