Pictured above: Nepal's President, Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, with Sustainable Immunization Financing Senior Program Officer Devendra Gnawali, and delegates from Rotary International/Nepal: Mr. Rabindra Piya, Rtn. Ram Prasad Bhandari, Rtn. Rabindra Jang Thapa, Rtn. Gopal Pokhrel and Rtn. Rishi Raj Adhikari.

Over the past few weeks, the Government of Nepal has advanced towards sustainable immunization financing in three domains: immunization legislation, a new government fund and a novel matching private immunization fund. His interest peaked, the President of Nepal, Hon. Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, is joining the growing network of supporters working on immunization financing solutions for the country.

Supporters have long recognized the need for a law providing for public financing for vaccines and immunization. But the goal seemed elusive. Like many lower income countries, Nepal’s economy is growing and revenues are increasing. But vaccine and delivery costs are rising faster; they are now around US$30 per Nepali child. This is more than planners can now allocate to the program. The solution: Establish two funds, one governmental, and the other private. Backed by the law, the public fund will ensure a minimal vaccine budget safeguarded from budgetary shocks. It will be matched by a private fund, dubbed the Sustainable Immunization Financing Support Fund, through which domestic private backers can contribute to the national immunization program. The private fund was launched by the country’s Rotary and Lions clubs in 2012.

These creative efforts to achieve sustainable immunization financing have caught the attention of Nepal’s President, Hon. Dr. Ram Baran Yadav. On October 31st, President Yadav hosted a briefing in his office on the immunization financing situation. The Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Sustainable Immunization Program’s (SIF) Senior Program Officer Dr. Devendra Gnawali and several delegates from Rotary International/Nepal, including Ram Prasad Bhandari, Rabindra Jang Thapa, Gopal Pokhrel and Rishi Raj Adhikari were in attendance.

Rtn. Bhandari and SIF Senior Program Officer Gnawali explained how the law and funding proposals were developed. Efforts began with a national immunization financing briefing held in 2010. Since then, Sabin, UNICEF and other partners have joined government counterparts in dozens of meetings to develop the financing and legislative proposals. The Rotarians and Lions seeded the private fund with initial donations from their members. They are presently mapping prospective private domestic contributors who will augment it. The President agreed to support the effort and is expected to attend an upcoming Sabin-Rotary high level meeting of 350 government and private participants.

Supporters expect the two funds to complement one another. A number of details remain to be worked out, for example, defining how the private funds will flow into the program and how program results will be reported to private fund donors.

On the legislative side, Nepal’s draft immunization law, having endured an exhaustive journey through an array of government institutions over the past year, has met its final step in the review process: it now sits with the Law Drafting Committee of the Council of Ministers. Once approved by the Council of Ministers, the law will enter the parliament floor for a vote into law.

With the President’s active involvement, prospects have never been brighter for Nepal to take the lead in the race towards sustainable immunization financing.