Global Vaccine Summit, Abu Dhabi 24-26 April 2013

Published: 25 April 2013

By Bekele Geleta, Secretary General, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Salaamo alei Kum and Good morning, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen and Madam Chair,

I wish to take this opportunity to thank His Excellency the Prince of Abu Dhabi and Mr. Bill Gates for hosting this important summit, which impacts on the wellbeing of the world’s children.

Let me start by paying tribute to the Afghanistan Red Crescent Society’s mobile health team staff, a driver and a vaccinator, killed last week while providing medical assistance to people who live in remote areas and have difficulties to access healthcare, in Jowzjan Province.

This tragic episode is just an example of how our volunteers and staff risk their lives every day to provide equitable access to health care for the most vulnerable in inaccessible areas.

However, these incidents only reinforce our resolve and will not demoralize us. We will ensure that every child is immunized. Our members and volunteers come from these very communities and as you know that the Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies also serve as auxiliaries to their governments.

Ladies and gentlemen, we firmly believe, in the central role of community led engagement and greater access in reaching our immunization goals. We are committed to ensuring that last mile is covered.

In the most difficult circumstances, from conflict situations like in Syria and Afghanistan, to natural disasters, like the recent earthquake in China, Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers everyday provide access to health services to everyone.

The IFRC is a distinctive network of National Societies - which works in 187 countries with close to 13 million active volunteers. We speak their language, live in these communities, engage their community leaders. We are therefore trusted at the grass root, everywhere. In Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan the only institution with a wide and deep presence are the Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies.

Today we are also combining the power of mobile technology to optimize the work of our volunteers and scale up successfully our health programmes worldwide. From the TERA (Trilogy Emergency Relief Application[1]) system in Haiti and Sierra Leone, to RAMP (Rapid Mobile Phone-based) survey methodology, we are seeing how technology can help us bridge the digital divide to improve services and reach that last mile. An organizational capacity assessment of all our National Societies is being introduced for performance improvement. This will include a peer review process and professional validation certification system. I expect this will vastly enhance our capacity to deliver and ensure accountability at all levels.

We believe every child can be reached but only if we invest seriously in the capacity of local organizations. Civil society organizations deliver as much as 60 per cent of health services in some developing nations.

Immunization is a unique doorway and a vehicle to scale up maternal and child health services to the people who need them most as well as help to improve health systems. Through our permanent and mobile health services in Afghanistan a package of health services are offered to women in children in addition to ensuring they are immunised routinely.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, the Red Cross Red Crescent stands ready to reach every child everywhere and help achieve universal immunization coverage.