No Child Should Die Before Fifth Birthday

Professor Emeritus Rose Gana Fomban Leke, University of Yaounde1, Cameroon, has called on the global health community to focus on the extraordinary power of vaccines to save more children from dying especially before their fifth birthday.

“No child should have to live with the threat of dying before his or her fifth birthday, especially from a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine,” she said.

Prof Leke made the call at the ongoing 2014 Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lectures at the University of Ghana, Legon on Thursday in Accra. The three-day lecture is on the theme: “Science and health in Africa future development”.

Emeritus Leke, who is a Professor of Parasitological and Immunology and Head of Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences of University of Yaounde1 said children deserve the opportunity to enjoy healthy, successful lives. “It is a human right for every individual to live a full and healthy life,” she added.

She said immunisation was of a best tool for the global health community to apply that opportunity into a reality, which would guarantee lives of many children in Africa.

Professor Leke noted that vaccines could be a pathfinder to integrate with other lifesaving interventions, adding that the challenges that Africa faced seemed enormous, but they were not unsurmountable.

She also said strengthening national immunisation systems, especially in countries with the greatest number of under-vaccinated children, should be a global priority to reduce morbidity and mortality from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Prof Leke therefore called on African Nations to provide support in ways that empower research and development to continue to generate new knowledge, products and tools for improved immunization strategies.

She further called on African leaders to adequate funding to improve health care particularly children and muster the political will to ensure the success of immunization in the continent.

Prof Leke urged African governments to focus on immunisation strategies with strong emphasis on the importance of addressing inequities as part of efforts to expand coverage of both traditional and new vaccines.

“If we assemble political will, adequate investment, means for discovery and development and a great deal of ‘elbow grease,’ there is no reason why we should not win the battle, get to and maintain a momentum for successful immunization programs in Africa,” she said.

The Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lectures constitute the most prestigious lecture series and the high-point of the intellectual calendar of the country.

The lecture series were instituted in 1957 to commemorate the contribution made to the founding of Achimota College and the advancement of education in Ghana.