GSK and Save the Children Partnership: Saving the Lives of One Million Children

GSK’s partnership with Save the Children is a Finalist in the Unilever Global Development Award supported by Business Fights Poverty.

We asked them some questions about their programme and the global development impacts achieved.


Q) What challenge does the GSK-Save the Children partnership serve to change?

In 2015, 5.9 children under the age of five died - the majority from preventable causes. This is often due to the fact that they don’t receive the essential healthcare they need. GSK and Save the Children formed a five-year partnership to help save the lives of one million children. We are demonstrating that by working together, the impact can far exceed what either can achieve alone. We are working to inspire employees and set a blue print for other strategic NGO-corporate partnerships. 

Our partnership goals are aligned with our respective core competencies and priorities, which helped identify areas for collaboration to generate the greatest impact.  For example, the work to develop paediatric medicines for those most in need supports both organisations’ priorities to increase access to health.


Q) How did you approach the partnership?

The organisations’ chief executives shared a vision which led to the beginning of our partnership. By mapping out core competencies the team was able to identify five core workstreams to initially focus on, combining our expertise to support the partnership’s ambition. Over time additional areas of potential for collaborative impact were identified. We now have a total number of 10 workstreams underpinning the partnership – ranging from research and development to humanitarian response.

Each organisation has representatives working closely on all the workstreams who meet monthly to discuss progress. We are also establishing regional steering committees to facilitate collaboration, governance and decision making for in Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America.  We now have some 120 people across both organisations involved in the partnership. Some GSK employees have taken part in PULSE, GSK’s longer term volunteer placement scheme, spending three to six months at a Save the Children office globally. This has enabled them to share their skills as well as learn new ones and bring back knowledge about how to develop products for low resource healthcare settings. 

Through establishing a strategic partnership with Save the Children and supporting it with a comprehensive internal global campaign, we have been able to galvanise GSK employees. Our employees have raised over £1.8 million so far. This partnership has had a really positive impact on employee engagement at GSK and 96% of employees agree that the partnership “makes me feel proud to work for GSK”.


Q) What have the impacts of the programme been?

The partnership supports critical health interventions within two of Save the Children’s Signature Programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya. Signature Programmes directly benefit children through high quality programmes, through the developments of innovate ways of having the most impact, and changing the policies and practices of others.  These programmes were created and are implemented in conjunction with the respective national Ministries of Health. 

In rural areas of Kenya, health systems can be insufficiently resourced and our programme aims to contribute to a 21% reduction in maternal and new-born mortality in Bungoma County. To date, we have reached 121,237 people, including 50,824 children under five and 20,967 pregnant women.

The DRC has some of the highest child and maternal mortality rates in the world. We are tackling the challenge through creating demand for, and the supply of, accessible, quality healthcare. So far, we have reached 249,729 children. Societal impacts include strengthening the cold chain through installing nine of 20 planned solar fridges, sharing GSK supply chain expertise, de-worming 18,640 children aged 6-14 years old and supporting the vaccination of 53,678 children.   

Infection is a major cause of newborn mortality, which can be caused by bacteria entering the body through a newly-cut umbilical cord. This is more likely to happen in low-income settings across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where more births take place at home. The partnership has advanced the reformulation of chlorhexidine, an antiseptic ingredient in a GSK mouthwash, into a gel to help prevent umbilical cord infections in newborn infants in developing countries. Chlorhexidine for newborn care has been named by a United Nations Commission report as an overlooked ‘life-saving commodity’ that, if more widely accessed and properly used, could potentially save 422,000 neonatal lives over five years.

In April 2016, the gel was granted a positive scientific opinion by European regulators. GSK will next submit local regulatory applications for the gel in low-income countries with moderate to high rates of neonatal deaths where supply is needed. If approved for use, GSK will offer the gel at a not-for-profit price, and will share its manufacturing knowledge with other interested companies to enable them to make the gel.

Other support includes the child refugee crisis and the Nepal earthquake. Save the Children have reached 265,196 individuals directly, including 108,498 children through emergency responses solely or jointly with GSK.

Under the partnership we work on joint advocacy activities which have helped us to establish new or deeper relationships with governments, NGOs and other businesses. For example, these activities have broadened the discussion around access to medicines and the partnership is advocating for Universal Health Coverage at global and national levels.

These positive impacts for children have been in addition to the business benefits of bringing GSK’s mission to life engagingly for employees. Working with Save the Children has brought valuable insight and expertise on reaching the most marginalised children, which helps GSK to develop different business models and approaches for widening access to healthcare.  


What GSK’s CEO said:

“A partnership of this scale gives us an opportunity to do something amazing – to save the lives of one million children and to transform the lives of millions more. At GSK we are motivated by developing innovative life-saving medicines and getting them to the people that need them. By joining forces with Save the Children, we can amplify these efforts to create a new momentum for change and stop children dying from preventable diseases. I hope this partnership inspires GSK employees and sets a new standard for how companies and NGOs can work together towards a shared goal.”

Sir Andrew Witty – GSK CEO


Editor's Note:

The Unilever Global Development Award winner will be announced at the Annual Responsible Business Gala on 11 July. For live updates from the winners please follow #BITCawards.

For more information about the Business in the Community Awards please see

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