By Mary Hearty

Amref Health Africa has been appointed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance as the new Civil Society Organization (CSO) to mobilize and support CSOs working to strengthen health systems and deliver immunization services to underserved communities.

The announcement builds on the momentum created by a Gavi Board-approved initiative to support and empower CSOs and communities to identify and reach underserved and missed communities.

This includes a requirement for all countries supported by Gavi to allocate at least ten percent of their combined Health System Strengthening (HSS), Equity Accelerator Funding (EAF) and Targeted Country Assistance (TCA) ceilings for activities undertaken by CSO partners.

As part of the 2021 World Immunisation Week, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Amref Health Africa, and the Gavi CSO Steering Committee announced this new partnership to harness the full potential of civil society to deliver on Gavi’s ambitious mission to leave no one behind with immunization.

The decision makes Amref Health Africa the first organization located in a lower middle-income country to host the CSO platform. Additionally, the coordination of these activities from Kenya – a country that is eligible for Gavi support – is a unique opportunity to meaningfully include beneficiary communities and their representatives in the design and implementation of immunization policies and programs.

“Civil society organizations play an essential role in supporting communities and health systems, and Amref has been at the core of working with different governments to increase sustainable health access to communities that would otherwise miss out on these essential services,” Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group Chief Executive Officer, Amref Health Africa said.

He added that hosting the Gavi CSO Constituency is an exciting opportunity for Amref to support the overall global immunization agenda – IA2030 – by expanding and deepening civil society engagement with key stakeholders, including government leaders, multilateral partners, private sector organizations and grassroots communities.

“Civil society organisations are critical to reaching the most marginalised, as they understand the specific needs and context of these populations and have the trust and confidence of the communities we are trying to serve,” Anuradha Gupta, Deputy CEO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance said, adding that they are counting on Amref and civil society partners to help them strengthen political commitment and accountability, build trust in vaccines, and support delivery of immunization services so that no one is left behind.”

Amref will offer strategic advisory services to the Gavi CSO Steering Committee and support capacity building efforts promoted by the Gavi Secretariat across the CSO Constituency for county-led engagement and implementation.

Amref will also ensure there is coordination between the Gavi Secretariat, the Gavi CSO Steering Committee and the Constituency and will manage communications on key and relevant issues for the civil society immunisation community.

“No community should be left behind. The Gavi Civil Society Constituency is excited by the partnership between Gavi and Amref – the first Southern Hemisphere host for the Gavi CSO Steering Committee. The Gavi 5.0 agenda is ambitious, and we are fully committed to its success,” said Dr. Sheetal Sharma, current Chair of the Gavi CSO Steering Committee.  Civil Society will continue to amplify the community voices and work with all partners at global, regional, national, and subnational levels to ensure immunisation remains a core intervention to deliver the existing global health goals,” she added.

Amref’s hosting appointment is effective from 1 January 2022 for a period of 3 years ending 2024.