Sunday, 5 June 2011

Boost for social justice from an unlikely source

Credit where it's due. David Cameron appears to be committed to defending the international development budget and although the Guardian puts it down to a cynical calculation to shore up his image, I'm not so sure - I suspect most voters probably agree with the charity-begins-at-home sentiments expressed by the Daily Mail.

In his most high-profile intervention on overseas aid since becoming prime minister, Cameron will host the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) conference in London on 13 June.

The conference, discussed by Barack Obama and Cameron last week, is regarded as vital to efforts to lower child mortality in Africa. In a sign of the scale of pledges being sought, the Obama administration is being asked to give $450m to the programme over three years.

Britain will also announce a substantial extra contribution to help reach the $3.7bn required to scale up immunisation programmes between 2011 and 2015, and save an estimated 4 million children's lives.

The funding will specifically enable Gavi to distribute two vaccines, pneumococcal and rotavirus, tackling the two biggest killers of children in the developing world: pneumonia and diarrhoea. It is thought the vaccines will save more than 4 million lives by 2015. Pneumonia accounts for 20% of all deaths of children under five.

Britain gave £150m to Gavi in March last year, and since 2005 has been the second most generous contributor to the alliance after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

As Alan Duncan puts it: aid-bashing does not actually get us anywhere. If we were to cancel the aid budget altogether it wouldn't solve all the other problems, so this sort of balancing of the aid budget versus all other problems isn't entirely logical.

The fact is, if you had a pound, would you give a halfpenny to stop someone dying in the street? The answer is you probably would, and what we are doing is stopping millions of people dying from disease, we are helping educate people and make them healthy.

Britain now spends more on overseas aid as a proportion of GDP than any other G8 nation, with a planned 34 per cent increase by 2014.

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