The funding, which will be channelled by Irish Aid through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), will support the expansion of vaccine programmes which target children in the world's poorest countries.
Children in developing countries are ten times more likely to die from a vaccine-preventable disease than they are in wealthier nations. The funding will support GAVI's efforts to increase vaccination rates against childhood diseases including measles, pneumonia, meningitis, whooping cough and yellow fever.
Announcing the funding, Minister Power said:
"Over the last ten years GAVI has directly supported the immunisation of more than 250 million children, a figure which will grow to 300 million by the end of next year. During that time it's estimated that they have prevented more than four million children from dying of preventable diseases and protected hundreds of millions more against infection.
"Our support will add to these impressive achievements and contribute to ending the unacceptable situation where millions of children in Africa and Asia fall victim to preventable disease.
"In 2008 alone, almost nine million children died before their fifth birthday, nearly a quarter of whom succumbed to vaccine-preventable illnesses. GAVI's effective and strategic programme of support to the world's poorest countries is playing a key role in stemming these unconscionable losses."
The GAVI Alliance provides multi-year grants and technical support to 72 of the world's poorest countries to expand delivery of and access to under-used vaccines. By the end of 2009, DTP3 coverage (full immunisation against Diptheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) in countries where GAVI works reached 79%, the highest rate of coverage ever experienced in the developing world.
GAVI works through providers in each country and also provides support to develop countries' health systems.
Minister Power said: "Health is one of the key sectors supported by Irish Aid. Promoting and protecting the health of a nation, especially its children, are crucial factors in the fight against poverty. We have committed to spending at least €100 million annually on preventing HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases. I am delighted that through our funding to GAVI, Ireland is contributing in a sustainable way to the impressive progress we are seeing in lifesaving immunisation programmes."
GAVI is a committed partner to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, both through the potential of vaccines to deliver significant impact on Goal 4 - to reduce child mortality - and the long-term health benefits of immunisation that will accrue to all MDGs.
January 4, 2009.
For further information, visit www.irishaid.gov.ie or contact Maggie Collins, Irish Aid press office, the Department of Foreign Affairs on 086-0659630
Notes for editor.
Irish Aid, the Government's programme for overseas development, is a division of the Department of Foreign Affairs. For further information visit www.irishaid.gov.ie
Launched in 2000, the GAVI Alliance is a global health partnership representing stakeholders in immunisation from both private and public sectors: developing world and donor governments, private sector philanthropists such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the financial community, developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, research and technical institutes, civil society organisations and multilateral organisations like the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Bank.
GAVI spends approximately US$1 billion annually, and 28% of this is financed by the Gates Foundation. For further information on GAVI, visit http://www.gavialliance.org
Ireland provides direct funding to GAVI. The funding announced today will bring total funding to GAVI since 2002 to more than €20 million.
Mary Robinson is the Chairperson of the GAVI Alliance Board.