SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday it has donated $20 million to help a program aimed at distributing coronavirus vaccines to poor countries around the world.
The donation from the humanitarian arm of the Church, Latter-day Saint Charities, is going to UNICEF as part of the organization's work with the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative, which this week sent its long-awaited first deliveries to Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Officials have hailed the initiative as the first deliveries of the vaccine to poor countries during an ongoing outbreak, but it has been hampered by limited global supply of doses and logistical problems. The effort's goal is to deliver 2 billion shots this year to world's most vulnerable people in low- and middle-income countries.
Ghana received 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday and the Ivory Coast took delivery of 504,000 on Friday.
“COVID-19 is the first truly global crisis we have seen in our lives. No matter where we live, the pandemic affects every person, including children. There has never been a more urgent need to work together. This grant for our important role in COVAX, from Latter-day Saint Charities, is the single biggest donation from a private sector partner that we’ve received to date,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director. “We hope that their generosity inspires other organizations, businesses and individuals to help us ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.”
Church officials hope the program helps children in these countries, where programs run by other organizations that provide children with health, nutritional and educational services have been disrupted by the pandemic, said Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint Charities in a statement.
“We express gratitude to UNICEF’s team and organization. They have done so much to care for children and their families and help them meet basic needs and fulfill their potential,” said Bishop Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishop of the Church. “As more adults in vulnerable communities are vaccinated, critical health, nutritional and educational services for children in need will be able to resume. We hold hope in our hearts not only of overcoming the pandemic, but of seeing a brighter future for all children and their families.”
More than half of the 16.5 million Church members live outside the United States, including 666,500 in Africa.
Latter-day Saint Charities and UNICEF USA entered into partnership in 2013, working together to support children and their families in the areas of immunization, emergency response, and education and development needs of refugees.