GAVI commends LDS Church for US$ 1.5 million gift

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Donation to be doubled under GAVI Matching Fund as immunisation becomes major Church initiative

Fred Riley of LDS Charities presents a US$ 1.5 million cheque to GAVI Board Chair Dagfinn Høybråten

Fred Riley of LDS Charities presents a US$ 1.5 million cheque to GAVI Board Chair Dagfinn Høybråten. The gift will be matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation under the GAVI Matching Fund, making the Church the seventh public-private partner in the programme.

Washington, DC, 12 June 2012 – The GAVI Alliance today commended the leadership and generosity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its US$ 1.5 million gift and the volunteer work of LDS members to support immunisation programmes through the GAVI Alliance.

The donation will be doubled as part of the GAVI Matching Fund by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, making the Church-sponsored LDS Charities the seventh public-private partner in the programme. Under the GAVI Matching Fund, the Gates Foundation and the British Government have agreed to match contributions to GAVI from corporations, foundations, their customers, employees, business partners and members to raise US$ 260 million for immunisation through 2015.

LDS Charities plans to introduce the GAVI Matching Fund to other private sector players. Other GAVI Matching Fund partners currently are Absolute Return for Kids (ARK), Anglo American, The Children's Investment Fund Foundation, Comic Relief, J.P. Morgan and “la Caixa” Foundation.

LDS Charities has designated immunisation as one of its major humanitarian initiatives. This commitment already has brought significant resources, visibility and tens of thousands of volunteers to support vaccine roll-outs, including GAVI’s historic immunisation drive in Ghana where the church arranged for 1.5 million SMS messages to be sent notifying Ghanaians about the programme, and the Church’s work in Kenya for World Pneumonia Day last November.

“The Church’s generous contribution of both its volunteers’ time and its funding will make a significant difference in helping protect the most vulnerable children against disease,” said GAVI Chair Dagfinn Høybråten. “Their work in Kenya, Ghana and elsewhere encouraging parents to vaccinate their children is critically important to the health not only of those families, but communities and countries as a whole. It is a beautiful example of how civil society is making a difference in immunisation around the world.”

The US$ 1.5 million contribution, presented to Høybråten at the GAVI Alliance board meeting today in Washington, DC, is the largest made to GAVI by a religious organisation. The gift, which comprises US$ 1 million in new funding and US$ 500,000 contributed late last year, will be used to purchase vaccines and support immunisation programmes in GAVI-supported countries.

"The church is grateful to have the opportunity to contribute in such a meaningful, on-the-ground way in helping save children’s lives and protecting people’s health through GAVI immunisation programmes,” said Fred Riley, manager of Immunisations and Special Projects for the Humanitarian Services division of the LDS Church. “The funds come from our members and represent the priority the Church places on this good work.”

Immunisation becomes the LDS Church’s seventh major humanitarian initiative, joining emergency response, clean water, wheelchair distribution, neonatal resuscitation training, vision care and food production.

Van and Marie Christensen are LDS volunteers from Idaho Falls, Idaho, who have been involved in social mobilisation initiatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Haiti, where they and Høybråten helped mark World Immunisation Week. GAVI has begun to roll-out pentavalent vaccine in Haiti, which also has been approved by GAVI to roll-out rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines.

“We were overjoyed knowing that children would be vaccinated with the assistance of our members. Encouraging parents to immunise their children, and then seeing kids receive these life-saving vaccines, fills us with awe,” said Van Christensen, who with wife Marie spent a month in Haiti assisting the Ministry of Health in publicising vaccine rollouts. To date, 16,456 volunteer hours have been donated by local LDS members in the social mobilisation and health education effort there. “We are thrilled to learn of the Church’s partnership with GAVI.”

In Kenya, where LDS volunteers supported GAVI programmes around World Pneumonia Day last November, activities included:

  • Partnering with the local Safe Womanhood Organization to help Somali and Sudanese refugees in Kenya better understand the dangers of pneumonia, especially for young children
  • Mobilising 350 LDS members in Kenya who provided 1,800 hours of service to heighten awareness of pneumonia
  • Supporting World Pneumonia Day activities organised by the Child and Adolescent health unit of the Kenyan Ministry of Health by providing fliers and shirts for volunteers working in various districts in Kenya
  • Taking out a quarter-page advertisement in Kenya’s most widely read newspaper to highlight World Pneumonia Day and encourage parents to get their children vaccinated

And in Ghana, LDS volunteers actively participated in Ghana Health Service planning meetings to support the simultaneous April roll-out of pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines there through GAVI, focused mainly on social mobilisation.

+60

For 2013, more than 60 countries were co-financing new and underused vaccines supplied by the Vaccine Alliance. Their contributions totalled US$ 70 million.

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