28 October 2021, Geneva – In the past year, we have witnessed significant loss across the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic: loss of life, loss of economic stability and loss of essential gains made over the last decade to bring immunisation and good nutrition to the world’s most vulnerable people. We have been especially concerned by the number of children left behind and who now face severe inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which if left unaddressed will surely impact their future growth and development.
Even before the pandemic, one in eight children in Gavi-supported countries did not receive any basic, routine vaccines, yet these “zero dose” children accounted for nearly half of all children dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the number of zero dose children in Gavi-supported countries increased by nearly 30%, heightening the risk of child deaths, disease outbreaks and medical impoverishment. In addition, these children, and their communities often suffer from multiple deprivations, and are unable to access healthy diets and essential nutrition interventions.
Globally, child malnutrition persists at an alarming rate, with an estimated 149 million children stunted and 45 million wasted in 2020. Because of the pandemic, an additional increase of 22 million stunted children and 40 million wasted children are estimated between 2020 and 2030, with large-scale health and socio-economic consequences. Furthermore, two out of three children suffering from severe wasting do not receive the lifesaving care they need and are at immediate risk of dying.
A wealth of evidence stresses that immunisation and nutrition interventions complement each other, and thus integrating the two could lead to better health outcomes, maximise efficiency gains and reach more people. For this reason, as leaders in immunisation and nutrition, we are coming together today to strengthen our efforts to identify and reach vulnerable communities – and especially “zero dose” children – with basic services by:
- Promoting the integration of critical immunisation and nutrition services to find more efficient delivery mechanisms by leveraging every contact with the health system to deliver essential services.
- Prioritising this integrated approach for building more responsive primary health care systems and universal health coverage to the benefit of communities.
- Fostering new and diverse multi-stakeholder partnerships contributing to improved access to health and nutrition services, to help countries prioritize and deliver this integrated approach.
We are, therefore, committing today to work together to find innovative ways to advance the integrated delivery of immunisation and nutrition services, with a particular focus on reaching zero-dose children – and are calling on our partners, donors, and other stakeholders to join us in this action.
United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, and Coordinator of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement
Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
Download the Gavi-SUN high-level joint statement and collaboration plan: English
The SUN Movement brings 64 countries and Indian member states together with more than 3,000 civil society organisations, 16 United Nations agencies and more than 900 small- and medium-sized enterprises to advance achievement of global nutrition goals, and to put national priorities at the heart of global efforts to improve nutrition.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other private sector partners. Since its inception in 2000, it has helped to immunize – over 888 million children – and prevented more than 15 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries.