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Nelson Mandela’s Opening Remarks to the
Second Annual Meeting of The Vaccine Fund Board of Directors

Johannesburg, South Africa

9th September 2003:

“Ladies and Gentlemen: It is my honor and privilege to welcome you to the second annual meeting of The Vaccine Fund Board of Directors here in Johannesburg. Speaking very objectively, I must say, you have made a wise choice to come to South Africa and to this region! The opportunity to serve as chairman of this esteemed Board, bringing together leaders of great talent and compassion in our honorable mission, is a tribute for which I am highly grateful. For I believe, like you, that there is no greater resource in the world than our children and I share with you the commitment to ensure that every child, everywhere has access to life-saving vaccines.

“As you will know best, The Vaccine Fund was designed to mobilize resources to restore and maintain child immunization rates at the highest levels; to work with our partners in the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) to ensure a secure supply of vaccines; to advocate for child immunization; and to manage our resources to ensure results.

“I am pleased to announce that with your help, our steadfast partners in the GAVI alliance have made significant progress on all of those fronts:

“Well over 30 million children have benefited from over $250 million in new vaccines and infrastructure. Funding has been made available to over 60 countries and millions of the world’s children are now protected against diseases. As many as 300,000 deaths will be prevented due to the good work you have done thus far.

"Our primary mission is life critical. Our goal is very clear: to address the gross inequities in child health still existing in the world today. Life or death for a young child too often depends on whether he is born in a country where vaccines are available or not. The Vaccine Fund’s job is to raise new resources so that the GAVI partners can protect the lives of more children.

“Funding is paramount. However, we also must use our individual and corporate voices - everyone in this room - to advocate on behalf of children and to demand on their behalf a fundamental equity which guarantees they will not lack the most basic and effective disease prevention tool available, a vaccine. In some cases, they cost but pennies a dose, in others more. However, whether the costs are low or high, the issue is of fundamental fairness.

“Let us raise our voices and the consciousness of the world around this great and urgent issue. Urgent because as we gather here in this beautiful hotel, out there not too far away there are literally thousands of children who become sick and die each day from preventable diseases. As much as we have accomplished over the past three years, much more needs to be done. To borrow a word from the American poet, Allen Ginsberg, we must raise and maintain a collective HOWL regarding such inequity, such unfairness that would deny health and life itself to the most innocent and vulnerable among us.

“We are gathered around this table today with one goal: Reaching every child, everywhere with life-saving vaccines. This, of course, will require new funding. I am confident that our discussion today will point us in the right direction to raise these funds and provide us all with renewed vigor to play our distinct roles in this honorable endeavor.

“The children out there are counting on your help. For your unwavering commitment, I thank you. I look forward to working closely with you to achieve this goal. I thank you very much, and I now declare this board meeting open."

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