Guest editorial: This New Year, use your voice to help others |

Guest editorial: This New Year, use your voice to help others

Debbie Baskin, Utah RESULTS and Voices for Utah Children

‘Tis the season of giving. Backpacks have been filled with supplies for homeless youth, friends worked together to fill the wishes of kids’ in poor families, and schools collected food for those in need. But one of the most effective ways of helping often goes ignored: advocacy.

Through advocacy we can save lives, we can make sure the money we pay as taxpayers gets spent wisely, we can create health systems, education systems, and financial systems that give opportunity to everyone.

You probably know that thousands of children die everyday of preventable diseases. But do you know there are solutions? Affordable solutions? In the year 2000, progress immunizing the worlds’ children had stalled. An organization named Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance set out to change that, and in the past 14 years they have immunized nearly half a billion children in poor countries, saving 6 million lives. Since 2000, this effort by Gavi has been instrumental in bringing down the number of children dying from preventable diseases from 27,000 per day to 17,000 per day.

But the future can be even better. We now have vaccines for two of the leading killers of children under five: diarrhea and pneumonia. From Nicaragua to Tanzania, doctors report that hospital units that use to overflow with young children suffering from severe diarrhea are now empty. Empty. Thanks to the new rotavirus vaccine and help from Gavi.

Gavi does not work alone; all of the countries Gavi helps with vaccines pay an increasing share of their own immunization costs each year. Currently, donors such as the U.K. and the U.S., as well as private donors such as Bill & Melinda Gates and LDS Charities provide 80% of the vaccine costs, but by 2016 that share will decrease to 60%, the rest being covered by the countries themselves. And by 2020, 22 out of the 67 countries receiving support are set to "graduate" and provide all their own immunization cost. Indeed, the cost born by donors will decrease over time. This is aid that has an end!

Gavi is asking the U.S. for $1 billion over the next four years. If they can meet their goal of raising $7.5 billion from all their donors, they will be able to save 6 million lives in only 5 years (a massive increase from their earlier accomplishment of 6 million lives in 14 years). Canada and Australia have already come forward and made large increases to their pledges, and the UK, the largest donor to Gavi, has committed to a matching pledge of US $1.5 billion.

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This is where advocacy is needed. Without support from citizens, the good news and benefits of Gavi will never be realized. We can save millions of children with this very small investment and make diseases like polio disappear. As a volunteer with RESULTS, an advocacy organization focused on ending severe poverty both abroad and here in the U.S., I have been able to learn about issues like Gavi and make very specific and meaningful requests from my congressman and senators.

In the New Year, I hope you will join me in advocacy. There are many organizations active here in Utah. RESULTS focuses on poverty, Voices for Utah Children focuses on all things that affect children, HEAL Utah focuses on clean air, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby focuses on Climate Change. Now is the time to talk about Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Man, with our families, with our neighbors, and especially with our congressmen and senators!