Private Eyes for Global Health

One of the great things about visiting Japan for the IMF/WB meetings is that I will have a chance to talk about the contribution the Japanese people have made to immunization.

The Japanese people have become the world’s strongest supporters of “vaccine bonds” that help support GAVI’s work.

For the last six years, they have been buying bonds sold by the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm), and the money they invest has been used by GAVI to buy vaccines for the poorest countries in the world. In all, the Japanese have purchased the equivalent of nearly US$ 2 billion in IFFIm vaccine bonds since 2006.

These everyday investors have helped protect millions of children against deadly diseases, including pneumonia, rotavirus, polio, measles, yellow fever and hepatitis. It is a powerful form of impact investing made possible through partnership with more than 20 local financial institutions in Japan, through underwriters such as Daiwa, J.P. Morgan, HSBC and Mitsubishi.

IFFIm is just one important part of a larger movement of the private sector toward supporting global health and development as well as the work of the World Bank (IFFIm’s treasury manager) and IMF. Companies are coming to realize that development aid is a collaborative process that benefits everyone – and everyone must be involved. This includes traditional government aid, of course, which remains the most important single source of funding, but also private citizens like those in Japan, companies, foundations and developing countries themselves.

Vaccines – for just a few dollars a dose – are one of the most cost-effective ways of improving living standards, health and the global economy. A child who has been vaccinated lives longer, has fewer illnesses and thereby reduces the economic strain on poor families. We also know that birth rates fall when parents are confident that their children will survive to adulthood. These factors, in turn, lead to greater educational opportunities and a more productive workforce, stronger economy and political and economic stability.

Companies have thereby come to realize that development aid is a collaborative process that benefits everyone – and everyone must be involved. This includes traditional government aid, of course, which remains the most important single source of funding, but also private citizens like those in Japan, companies, foundations and developing countries themselves.

One of the key reasons I am in Tokyo is to participate in a GAVI event on co-financing, where finance ministers and development experts will discuss the economic importance of vaccines and the importance of developing country participation.

GAVI’s business model, in fact, requires that recipient countries contribute at an appropriate level toward the cost of the vaccines they receive. This ensures that immunization programs are sustained after GAVI’s financial support ends.

To help them get there, GAVI has begun to further engage the private sector, and they are responding. Under the GAVI Matching Fund, the UK government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have pledged about US$ 130 million combined to match contributions from corporations, foundations, their customers, employees and business partners. To date, seven companies and foundations have become partners: Anglo American, ARK Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Comic Relief, J.P. Morgan, “la Caixa” Foundation and LDS Charities, raising US$ 52.4 million over the past year, with the match.

In addition, corporations can share their business competencies to help solve supply chain and logistics management issues, develop more efficient cold storage and create information systems for immunization programs.

The result of all these innovations is a new world of global health development, very different than what we have seen previously at World Bank-IMF meetings. Consider: Funding from IFFIm is being used to purchase vaccines co-financed by recipient and donor countries and delivered through a supply chain aided by corporations.

This is a remarkable development, the kind of collaboration that can enable us not only to get more resources, but use those resources more effectively in years to come.

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