Jemima Khan: We are a wealthy country, so we can afford to help

The cost of a vaccine for one of the major child killers is less than most of us would pay for a daily cup of coffee

Share
Related Topics

The cautious Prime Minister is being uncharacteristically brave. World leaders meet today in London for a Dfid-hosted pledging conference for Gavi (The Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunisation). Britain is taking the moral lead, not in rallying support for yet another military intervention but in lobbying for immunisation for every last child – the remaining fifth of the world's child population – against vaccine-preventable diseases. Cameron risks angering many of his backbenchers by announcing a major donation to Gavi's global child immunisation campaign, as part of the UK government's unique commitment to honour its pledge made at the 2005 G8 summit to give 0.7 per cent of national income to overseas aid.



Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies have announced they will be selling their vaccines at significantly reduced prices (up to 95 per cent) to the developing world.

Cameron will be lambasted by the right of his party who say that charity starts at home, aid doesn't work and we can't afford it. It comes as no surprise that Liam Fox, the minister who presides over one of the most wasteful, worst-run, profligate and remedially managed departments in government, has emerged (after his "leaked" memo) as Cameron's big critic on this issue.

Many of these critics see no inconsistency in their continued support for military involvement in Afghanistan, a country that has never threatened Britain and which costs us £4.5bn a year. A conflict which has killed 307 of our servicemen and 30,000 innocent civilians. Somehow that is money well spent, whereas the £2.3bn that is needed from the world's wealthiest donor governments to vaccinate one quarter of a billion of the world's poorest children, saving four million extra lives, is a waste. Immunisation is one of the biggest success stories of the past three decades.

After clean drinking water, vaccines have saved more lives than any other public health intervention in modern history. Over 80 per cent of children globally are being immunised every year and 2.5 million lives saved annually.

Immunisation has eradicated smallpox and polio in all but four countries worldwide. Now vaccines exist for the two viruses that cause the biggest child killers, pneumonia and diarrhoea. Combined, these account for two thirds – one million a year – of all childhood deaths. Vaccines against HIV and malaria are in the testing and development stage and they could revolutionise global healthcare.

For those for whom the ethical argument is not sufficiently convincing, there's an economic incentive. Immunisation is highly cost-effective – it's far cheaper than treatment.

With the cooperation of the pharmaceutical companies, the cost of a vaccine for one of the major child killers is less than most of us would pay for a daily cup of coffee. The cynical self-interested point of view also holds that aid means trade. There is an incalculable impact on the economy when parents have to stay at home to care for a sick child.

The faster developing countries develop, the more stable they become and the more of our goods and services they will buy. Of course, it's not always easy. Aid has been misused by corrupt governments. That's why International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell carried out a thorough review of aid effectiveness .

The most competent, accountable agencies, like Unicef, have been identified, meaning that the benefits of aid can be monitored and maximised. Success depends on transparency. There are those that will say that we can't afford it and anyway it's OK for me. But is it OK that a child who is born in one of the poorest countries is 20 times more likely to die before his or her fifth birthday than a child in the UK? Is it OK that one child dies unnecessarily every 20 seconds from a preventable disease?

Despite the economic crisis, the UK remains one of the wealthiest economies in the world.

With our reputation and credibility at an all-time low in many parts of the world at the moment, it's a good time to demonstrate that it's not just military intervention that interests us and that charity does not start and end at the white cliffs of Dover.



Jemima Khan is an ambassador for Unicef UK

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own