Today is Gavi’s third donor pledging conference with a goal of mobilizing at least US$ 7.4 billion in additional resources to protect the next generation with vaccines, reduce disease inequality and create a healthier, safer and more prosperous world. Gavi’s is a key partner in the Global Financing Facility’s (GFF) efforts to end preventable maternal, child and adolescent deaths by 2030. With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to disrupt the delivery of life-saving health services and reverse decades of progress, this partnership becomes more important than ever.  

How have Gavi and the GFF been working together over the past five years, since the launch of the GFF? We sat down with GFF’s Senior Economist Mirja Sjöblom, who together with Ellen van der Poel, has been spearheading the GFF’s effort to strengthen collaboration with global health agencies, to talk about past accomplishments and discuss ways forward within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

With the upcoming GAVI replenishment, and the GFF nearing its 5-year anniversary, how do you think this partnership has evolved? 

Both Gavi and the GFF are driven by an overarching vision -- to build a better future for children and women and end preventable deaths, especially among the poorest and most vulnerable communities. Our initial collaboration focused mostly on the global advocacy and partner convening but over the years the global health community has realized that long-lasting impact depends on how we work together to build resilient health systems in each country. The GFF’s work with governments around the development of an Investment Case that brings together multiple stakeholders and aligns partner support and financing, has helped to translate our global vision to an effective and structured collaboration at country level. Gavi’s support has always been a critical element of this process and we look forward to continuing this work and further strengthening collaboration in the future.

What do you think is the biggest advantage of the GFF-Gavi partnership? 

Driven by the same vision, our approaches have many common denominators. At country level, we face similar opportunities and challenges, work together to find shared solutions and complement each other’s work, particularly on issues related to strengthening health systems and mobilizing financing to the health sector. For example, in Mozambique, Gavi and the GFF are developing a collaboration to support the Ministry of Health to use more data for decision making and improve data quality and information systems for the entire health sector, not just for vaccines. Another example is our joint advocacy for more domestic resources for health. For instance, in Côte d’Ivoire the Global Fund and Gavi co-financed a health financing assessment carried out by the World Bank, that provided critical input to the country’s Investment Case, which focused on strengthening primary care. The Investment Case was later used as an advocacy tool for increasing domestic resources to the health sector which has resulted in a commitment by the Prime Minister to increase the health budget by at least 15 percent annually. Also, I see potential for expanding collaboration around service delivery approaches. For example, we can work together Gavi works with countries to administer the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to adolescents, we can work together and develop joint strategies for service delivery that targets this group (e.g. through youth friendly clinics). Similarly, child vaccination days supported by Gavi, can be used to also reach mothers with sexual and reproductive health services.

Could you describe the health financing accelerator and the role of the GFF-Gavi partnership in this project? 

The launch of the Global Action Plan (GAP) has helped accelerate the momentum for stronger partner alignment, particularly through its Sustainable Health Financing Accelerator and Primary Health Care Accelerator. Under the Sustainable Financing Accelerator, the GFF, Gavi and other partners have regular conversations on ways to improve alignment and joint approaches at country, regional and global levels. This has resulted in joint country missions (e.g. Ghana and Tajikistan) to explore joint investments in support of country priorities, joint analytical approaches and studies and global efforts to strengthen alignment and collaboration. One of the highlights of our joint work this year, was the Alignment Workshop series co-organized by the GFF, Gavi and Global Fund, together with WHO, the World Bank and other partners in the P4H network (Providing for Health) in April 2020 that enabled agencies and countries to share information about their operational models, country coordination platforms and health financing tools and approaches. This has led to the development of country-specific alignment plans and a dialogue on concrete joint activities.

What makes this partnership even more critical in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

COVID-19 has reinforced the need to address vulnerabilities in health systems and make them resilient to shocks in ways that protect everyone, especially the most vulnerable. It has also highlighted the need to remove financial barriers to accessing health care for disadvantaged communities. With COVID-19, we already see routine immunization services being disrupted and progress on child mortality jeopardized. These disruptions can create setbacks for countries on their path to Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030. The need for intensified global cooperation, especially among health agencies, has never been greater, especially around priorities such as health workforce shortages and how to ensure equitable access to essential health services, new diagnostics, medicines and vaccines. Both the GFF and Gavi are working to ensure that countries and front-line health workers are successfully addressing the Covid-19 crisis and maintaining vaccination services and other essential health services for women, children and adolescents. Ending preventable maternal, newborn and children deaths by 2030 cannot be achieved unless children and communities are protected from deadly infectious diseases and unless countries build strong health systems that can sustain crisis such as COVID-19. A successful Gavi replenishment will help ensure that 300 million children are vaccinated and an additional 7–8 million lives are saved by 2025. The GFF supports Gavi’s mission and is committed to working with Gavi to help countries improve health systems and close immunization gaps.