European Commission President Barroso speaks at Global Vaccine Summit

European Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso highlighted European Union contributions towards global health and polio eradication at the Global Vaccine Summit last Thursday in Abu Dhabi.

"We all know that, every day, there are 19,000 clear and convincing reasons for [donating,]" Barroso said. "Because that is the number of children under the age of 5 who on average die every day from perfectly preventable causes... The European Union is and remains the largest donor of development aid in the world. The European Commission alone annually commits more than 8 billion euro."

Barroso told GVS attendees that the comprehensive approach of donating funds to the health sector, such as providing better access to health care services and investments in nutrition, sanitation and clean water is an "economic investment" and will impact every country positively, as health concerns are often responsible for larger issues such as national instability or underdevelopment.

"This in fact supports the holistic approach, linking the health policy, the health part of our development aid policy, to a broader concept of support for countries," Barroso said. "This is why we have also integrated these specific lines of support to health in our country by country programmes."

Barosso mentioned some of the successes development aid has made possible, including health and immunizations systems in Afghanistan and Nigeria, two of the last countries to have cases of polio. He also made mention of specific health initiatives he believes to have the most urgent need for global support, such as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has announced an initiative to eradicate the disease entirely by 2018.

"But let us be clear that it is not just the money that makes the difference, but the people. The huge success in bringing down polio is to a large extent the work of routine immunisation services and their health workers; courageous men and women who devote their lives to preventing deaths; who in some regions even endanger their own lives to save others. Let me use this opportunity to commemorate those that have been attacked and killed recently when carrying out immunisation programmes, and honour the brave health workers who refuse to give up even in the face of threats."

Barosso urged the international community to invest more into these health initiatives, as a moral obligation, at the end of his speech.