A pioneering partnership of public and private donors in the past year has funded vaccinations for several hundred million children in the world's poorest countries, saving countless lives. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from Johannesburg the partnership is marking its first anniversary at a meeting in South Africa.
The International Finance Facility for Immunization says that last year it raised $1 billion from private investors to fund life-saving vaccination programs in 43 developing nations around the world.
The group, known as IFFIM, told a teleconference in Cape Town that the funds were raised through bonds issued on private capital markets. The bonds were based on legally binding 20 year pledges by seven governments in Europe and South Africa.
The money was easily raised because the pledging governments enjoy superior credit ratings and the program is administered by the World Bank. Investors were also attracted because of the bonds' humanitarian character.
Officials said it was the first undertaking of its kind and allowed the group to cash in and deliver 20 years worth of donor pledges in one year.
The funds were distributed through the GAVI Alliance, a partnership of public and private groups that seeks to promote world health through immunization.
GAVI Board Chairwoman Graca Machel says the IFFIM was an innovative way to attack under-development.
"When leaders, political leaders, business leaders and development leaders, when they commit themselves to make a huge change, a difference can be made, new ideas can come through and energy to make results in a very short period of time can be achieved," she said.
As a result, officials say 194 million children in 32 developing countries were vaccinated against measles. One hundred million children were vaccinated against polio. And millions of vaccines were supplied to fight yellow fever, tetanus, diphtheria, pertusis, and other severe infections.
IFFIM Chair Alan Gillespie said his group plans to raise more money on international bond markets.
"Looking forward all told, IFFIM's expected disbursement to GAVI should be in the order of $4 billion over the period up to 2015 enabling the prevention of 10 million deaths," he said.
IFFIM was founded by six European countries, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. South Africa joined this year and officials said Brazil was in the process of joining.
IFFIM was created to accelerate efforts to reduce infant mortality by two-thirds by the year 2015, one of the millennium development goals established by the United Nations.
But participants said a large funding gap remains because an estimated $30 billion will be needed to meet the goal.