Church of Jesus Christ announces $10M donation to address health of women, children

UNICEF’s Carla Haddad Mardini, left, speaks with Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Sharon Eubank, middle, the church’s director of Humanitarian Services, during a meeting at the G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna, Italy, in September 2021. The church announced a $10 million donation on Friday, with $5 million directed to UNICEF to address maternal and neonatal tetanus. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a $10 million donation on Friday designed to help eradicate polio and maternal and neonatal tetanus.

The donations will specifically help countries where polio and maternal and neonatal tetanus are endemic, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and African countries.

“The church is committed to the well-being of mothers and children. Today’s donation is only one of many recent efforts with respected organizations to address hunger, malnutrition and immunizations,” Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé said in a statement.

He said each child deserves a healthy life.

Polio

Half of the full donation, $5 million, will be given to Rotary International to address polio, with half of that specifically helping African countries that lost progress in eradicating polio due to COVID-19.

Michael K. McGovern, chairman of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee, which is working together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevents, UNICEF and others, expressed gratitude for the donation.

“The funding comes at a critical time for polio eradication efforts and will help protect children from lifelong paralysis due to the poliovirus,” he said.

Donations to Rotary International are matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which a church article about the donation called, “a financial blessing,” that brings with it an opportunity to eradicate the disease.

According to the church statement, wild poliovirus has reemerged in under-immunized areas, including Malawi and Mozambique, and communities in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — where polio was previously eradicated — are experiencing outbreaks.

“The Church of Jesus Christ cares deeply about the impact polio has on children,” said Elder Alfred Kyungu of the 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.”

Maternal and neonatal tetanus

The church is sending $5 million to UNICEF to support efforts to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus, which is contracted through bacteria found in soil that can enter the body through wounds or contact with an umbilical cord.

The disease 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, according to the press release.

UNICEF and other partners address maternal and neonatal tetanus by administering vaccines to women and promoting clean delivery practices.

Carla Haddad Mardini, director of private sector fundraising and partnerships at UNICEF, said the church has supported its programs for the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus since 2014.

“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,” Mardini said.

Polio vaccines are also among the many basic offerings available for purchase and donation to countries in need as part of the church’s Light the World Giving Machines, which are vending machines that give Utahns and others opportunities to help while also seeing where their donations go. UNICEF reports that $25 could provide up to 100 children with a polio vaccine. The humanitarian charity adds that it is responsible for providing vaccines to nearly half of the world’s children, saving an estimated 2 to 3 million kids from life-threatening diseases each year.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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