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

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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links