The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is giving $10 million to help eradicate polio in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and several African countries.
Funding will also help eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) in 13 remaining African countries and other areas where the disease is endemic.
The polio donation ($5 million) goes to Rotary International, which has spent billions in recent decades to eradicate this paralyzing disease. Any donation to Rotary is matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — a financial blessing that presents an opportunity to eradicate the disease within our lifetime.
Michael K. McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee, said, “Rotary is grateful for this very generous contribution from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The funding is critical for polio eradication efforts and will help protect children from lifelong paralysis due to the poliovirus.”
Half of the Church’s grant to Rotary will help African countries regain progress lost due to COVID-19. In under-immunized areas such as Malawi and Mozambique, wild poliovirus has reemerged. And communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria are seeing polio outbreaks rarely seen in places where the disease was once eradicated.
“The Church of Jesus Christ cares deeply about the impact polio has on children,” said Elder Alfred Kyungu of the faith’s Africa West Area Presidency. “On behalf of the Church and its membership in Africa, I express our deep gratitude to Rotary International for the significant work they do to help children and families on this beautiful continent live happier, healthier lives.”
The other $5 million goes to UNICEF in support of efforts to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus.
Tetanus is contracted through exposure to bacteria commonly found in soil that can enter through wounds or a newborn’s umbilical cord. UNICEF, the World Health Organization and other partners work together to eliminate the spread of tetanus by administering vaccinations to women of reproductive age or during pregnancy and promoting clean delivery and cord care practices.
MNT is a significant public health problem in Afghanistan, Angola, the Central African Republic, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen.
“Through its humanitarian services, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has supported UNICEF’s maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination programs since 2014,” said Carla Haddad Mardini, UNICEF’s Director of Private Sector Fundraising and Partnerships. “We are grateful for this collaboration, which provides flexible resources that enable UNICEF and its partners to reach women in high-risk countries with essential vaccines while also strengthening health systems.”
“The Church is committed to the well-being of mothers and children,” added the faith’s Presiding Bishop, Gérald Caussé. “Today’s donation is only one of many recent efforts with respected organizations to address hunger, malnutrition, and immunizations. Every child is precious and deserves a healthy start to life. Children lift communities. It is an honor and privilege to support Rotary International, UNICEF, and others in this important work.”