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Simon Wright, Head of Child Survival at Save the Children gives a partnership perspective

Our partnership with Save the Children is a long-term collaboration aimed at helping to save one million children’s lives. Simon Wright, Head for Child Survival at Save the Children, talks about how we’re working together to make sure the health needs of the world’s poorest children are at the top of everyone’s agenda.

simon wright
Simon Wright | Head of Child Survival | Save the Children

When Save the Children and GSK started to talk about a new partnership back in 2012, we wanted our collaboration to be ambitious and to have a lasting impact. We wanted to reduce child mortality on a global scale and knew we couldn’t do this alone. But that with a combined voice we could harness our collective power and amplify the voices of children on health issues. As a first step we looked at the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 4,1 which targeted a reduction in child mortality by two-thirds by 2015. Building on MDG4, we developed a joint ambition to put universal health coverage and access to medicines and vaccines at the top of global health policy discussions.

Why universal health coverage? While it might seem obvious to someone in a wealthy country that everyone should be entitled to healthcare regardless of their ability to pay for it, unfortunately, it is still a revolutionary idea in many parts of the world. Save the Children has been working for years with the World Health Organisation and the World Bank to improve access to healthcare for people in poor countries. In 2015, the world signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals: a new global framework to address global inequalities of resources and health. Save the Children has had the opportunity to be heard in these influential negotiations promoting, amongst a number of key priorities, an end to all preventable child deaths, and universal health coverage. This year, we are working to encourage the G7 Summit in Japan to commit to support Universal Health Coverage. 

It was imperative for us, and the children we campaign for, to voice these opinions and I believe these conversations are strengthened as a result of our partnership with GSK. While some people may question a partnership between a pharmaceutical company and a non-governmental organisation (NGO), we have already found that GSK is heard in places where we are not. 

In January 2015, we attended Gavi,2 the Vaccine Alliance’s replenishment conference in Berlin. Save the Children pushed donors to prioritise getting basic vaccines to children fairly and GSK committed to let countries that graduate from Gavi support to get the same prices for ten years afterwards. Delivering vaccines into a port or airport is not, on its own, good enough. Countries need to employ the health workers, set the plans and strategies, monitor performance and quality, and plan for funding the vaccines when Gavi support stops. Again, GSK and Save the Children are advocating for sustainable solutions to improve this type of access to health.

Our work with GSK does not stop at changing policy and advocating on behalf of children to achieve universal health coverage. In a first for Save the Children, we have a joint R&D Board discussing new medicines that GSK is developing for child health and how to ensure that the poorest get access to them.

Bringing both organisations’ expertise and resources to the table makes sense.

If GSK can persuade the rest of the pharmaceutical industry to follow its lead, we hope to help save even more children’s lives.

[1] The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.

[2] Created in 2000, Gavi is an international organisation – the Global Vaccine Alliance Initiative. Gavi brings together the public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines, for children living in the world’s poorest countries.