EAST AFRICA – KfW has given US $28.9 million on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to support GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, in effectively protecting children in the East African Community (EAC) against infectious diseases.

The funds will be used to facilitate the procurement of vaccines, consumables, transport and insurance on a pro rata basis.

This funding comes as a follow up to the US $346.1 million kfW has issued to fund immunization programs in East Africa since 2013. The funds have made possible procurement of 120 million vaccine doses for children and infants, among other things.

Vaccinations against COVID-19 are currently the focus of attention, but protection against other diseases must not be forgotten. On behalf of the German Federal Government, KfW, together with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, is promoting routine vaccinations of children in the East African Community (EAC).

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the children’s relief organization UNICEF have already warned that the number of child vaccinations has declined alarmingly.

Despite the global progress in reducing child mortality rates over the past few decades, UNICEF reported that an estimated 5.2 million children under age five died in 2019, more than half of those deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.

In East Africa, child mortality is still very high despite significant progress. In 2017, it was 57.35 per thousand.

About half of the child deaths are due to infectious diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination. Besides diarrhea, these are mainly respiratory diseases and measles.

Protection is provided by vaccinations against pneumococcus, for example, and multiple vaccines that prevent several fatal diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough or hepatitis B through a single application.

They represent a particularly efficient means for reaching the broadest possible sections of the population and for sustainably containing the spread of the pathogens.

There is also reliable protection against the rotavirus, which can cause severe diarrhea. All these vaccinations are highly effective and well tolerated – which makes it all the more important not to neglect them in the current COVID 19 pandemics.

The poor population in particular benefits from the vaccination campaign, as they usually have little access to health services. About half of the people in the East African Community live below the poverty line.

Refugees from Burundi, for example, who live in Rwanda and Tanzania, are also specifically included in the campaign to avoid the spread of dangerous diseases through migration.

In addition, KfW, also on behalf of the BMZ, is supporting a regional training and excellence center for health and immunization logistics at the University of Rwanda with US $16.7 million.

The center’s training and further education programs improve health care in the entire region. Strengthening the health system is particularly important in times of the pandemic – but health promotion will remain essential for empowering vulnerable populations even afterwards.