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Stressing the vital role immunizations play in improving the health of millions worldwide, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for increasing funding for an innovative United Nations-backed initiative that delivers life-saving vaccines to those who need them the most.

Since its creation in 2000, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) reached some 257 million children with new and under-used vaccines.

Increased use of vaccines can help prevent millions of deaths worldwide and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for child health – a two-thirds reduction in the number of deaths in children under five by the target date of 2015.

“Let us commit to increasing the funds available to the GAVI Alliance. Let us commit to improving health for children, women and men everywhere,” Mr. Ban said in remarks at a reception last night in New York to mark the Alliance's call for action and resources.

The Secretary-General noted that immunization, and the work of the Alliance, is a key part of the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, which he launched two weeks with the aim of saving the lives of over 16 million women and children between 2011 and 2015.

“You are poised to accelerate the introduction of life-saving vaccines – a plan that can prevent more than 4 million future deaths, the child who will live without risk of pneumonia, the girl who will never have to suffer cervical cancer, the millions of women and men who will be saved by a simple injection,” he told the gathering.

“You have the knowledge, the networks and the resources to influence the health and well-being of millions of people.”

Mr. Ban added that the Alliance, along with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, are “central pillars of global public health” and essential for achieving the health-related MDGs.

Yesterday the Secretary-General announced that donor countries, private foundations, corporations and individuals gathered at the UN for the Global Fund's third replenishment conference had pledged over $11.5 billion in new funding over the next three years to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.

“This work is not just about replenishing the fund; it is about replenishing hope and dignity in people's lives,” noted the Secretary-General, who chaired the two-day pledging conference.