The Government has announced additional €3 million in funding for vaccines for children dying from preventable diseases, raising the Irish Aid overseas development budget by 20 per cent on last year's spending.
The funding pledge, which was made at the international 'Reach every child' conference in Berlin, will be provided to Gavi, an organisation dedicated to improving access to new vaccines for children living in the world's poorest countries.
“By making vaccines more affordable and accessible, Gavi has reached 500 million children since it was established in 2000 and estimate that they have prevented more than seven million deaths in the process,” said Minister of State for Development, Seán Sherlock following the announcement.
“Our funding of €3 million will help Gavi to reach an additional 300 million children over the coming years, thus preventing an estimated five to six million deaths.”
The Government has allocated just over €600 million for overseas development aid in 2015. The Irish overseas aid budget has fallen by 30 per cent in recent years, having hit a high point of 0.59 per cent of GNP (€920 million) in 2008.
Mr Sherlock said Gavi was also expected to contribute to the rollout of the Ebola vaccine when it becomes available.
Last November, the Irish Government committed more than €4 million in funding in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
A survey carried out in early January revealed nearly three out of four Irish people think the Government should continue to increase its overseas development aid support.
The Eurobarometer survey, carried out with over 28,000 participants across Europe including 1,037 people in Ireland, found 68 per cent of Irish people think developed countries should allocate more money to overseas aid.
The Government’s announcement of increased funding for vaccine programmes follows last week’s Irish launch of the European Year for Development which is dedicated to spreading awareness of global issues such as poverty, inequality and climate change.