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Advocating for global health on Capital Hill

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2013 Shot@Life Champions after a day of advocating on Capital Hill.

The last four days have been absolutely amazing. I was one of 100 men and women who went to our nation’s capital to learn about and advocate for global vaccines as part of the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign. It was my second time participating in the Shot@Life Summit and was such an honor to represent the people across the United States who believe strongly in the importance of providing global vaccines for children around the world.

On Monday morning, we collectively held 100 face to face meetings with our Members of Congress to ask them to protect funding for global vaccines.  Faced with extremely difficult decisions and daunting budget cuts as sequestration nears, there is concern that foreign aid spending and in particular, global health spending will be cut across the board. Annually, foreign aid spending accounts for less than 1 % of the overall budget and global vaccines makes up an even smaller piece of the pie at approximately $300 million.

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The stakes are extremely high. Any cuts to global health will be a significant setback in the progress we have made in saving lives. Currently every 20 seconds a child dies from a vaccine preventable death. However, this figure was much higher just a few decades ago and we have made significant progress in fighting such deadly, devastating diseases such as polio (which is almost eradicated), pneumonia, diarrhea and measles since the introduction of global vaccines. It can be argued that the estimated cut of 5.1% across the board funding to non-defense discretionary programs could result in 805,200 less vaccines for children causing 8,500 preventable deaths.* In today’s article by New York Times journalist KJ Dell’Antonia who covered the Shot@Life Summit, one sentence in particular struck a chord when she was discussing our work:

“So you could say that those volunteer travelers were there on behalf of those 8,500 children, and all of the others who are helped by the United States’ commitment to global health initiatives”.

Right there those words said it all. We were providing a voice for the voiceless mothers and fathers around the world who are losing a child that we could have saved.

Children just like ours.

All photos above used with permission and credited to Stuart Ramson, UN Foundation. All these children have been vaccinated thanks to Shot@Life. 

*Statistic from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and referenced in “Business Travel for a Cause: Admirable. Still Painful” by KJ Dell’Antonia, New York Times, Motherlode.

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