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Vaccines and Ensuring the Health of Children No Matter Where They Live

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As world leaders gather this week at the General Assembly in New York, I'm encouraged by the focus on children's health alongside other pressing global issues.

These discussions come in the wake of UNICEF's latest report on declines in child mortality around the world.

There's much good news to celebrate in these figures. The number of children who die before they reach their fifth birthday has dropped from 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011. Widespread progress has been made with steady gains in all regions over the past 20 years.

In June, the governments of the United States, India and Ethiopia along with UNICEF launched a renewed global commitment to child survival at a meeting in Washington. Since then, more than 110 governments, almost 300 faith leaders and 174 civil society organisations have pledged to renew their efforts to reduce child mortality. I continued to be inspired by new partnerships and reinvigorated partnerships forged out of that meeting to ensure that children everywhere can lead healthy and productive lives.

Partnerships are key to ending preventable child deaths and the GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) operates under the belief that working together as an alliance ensures greater results and more lives saved than any of our partners can achieve alone.

UNICEF is a critical partner to GAVI as the world's biggest purchaser and supplier of vaccines for developing countries. UNICEF's country offices also help plan and implement immunisation programs supported by GAVI.

The declines in child mortality highlighted in the UNICEF report are due in part to dramatic increases in routine immunisation against the leading killers of children under 5, pneumonia caused by pneumococcal disease and diarrhea caused by rotavirus. According to the World Health Organization, 1.2 million children died of pneumonia alone in 2011.

Today, more than two dozen countries have introduced pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines with GAVI's support. But that's not enough.

On average, about 19,000 children still die every day. These deaths are largely preventable and expanding access to vaccines and immunisation can play a major role. Vaccines are the great equalizer. Making them available in developing countries shortly after they're offered in developed countries has an impact far beyond health.

This year alone, GAVI has introduced vaccines in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Yemen and Rwanda. We're currently planning to introduce pneumococcal vaccine in Pakistan. Children in countries that are often isolated are receiving the same protection against life-threatening illnesses as their peers in other parts of the world.

By working together to save lives and improve the health of all children no matter where they live, we can create a world where equity is within our reach.