Areas of the world that had made progress against polio are now seeing outbreaks again, and children are becoming paralyzed. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the delivery and use of immunization services, and multiple countries lost ground where the disease was once eradicated.
Under-immunizations for tetanus also affect women and children in many countries as well.
To raise immunization efforts, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday $10 million in donations to organizations working in Afghanistan, Pakistan and several African countries, said the announcement on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
“The Church is committed to the wellbeing of mothers and children. Today’s donation is only one of many recent efforts with respected organizations to address hunger, malnutrition and immunizations,” said Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé.
Half of the $10 million total — $5 million — is going to Rotary International to fight polio. This portion of the Church’s grant will help African countries regain progress lost to COVID-19 in countries such as Malawi, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.
And any donation to Rotary International is matched two to one by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
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 comes at a critical time for polio eradication efforts and will help protect children from lifelong paralysis due to the poliovirus.”
Elder Alfred Kyungu, General Authority Seventy and second counselor in the Africa West Area presidency, said the Church cares deeply about the impact polio has on children.
“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,” Elder Kyungu said.
The other $5 million from the Church goes to UNICEF in support of efforts to eliminate tetanus.
Maternal and neonatal tetanus is a significant public health problem throughout areas of Africa, the Middle East, and central and southeastern Asia — including in Afghanistan, Angola, the Central African Republic, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen.
Tetanus is contracted through exposure to bacteria that can enter through wounds or a newborn’s umbilical cord. Clean delivery and cord care practices — in addition to vaccinations given to women of reproductive age or during pregnancy — can help eliminate the spread.
UNICEF’s director of private sector fundraising and partnerships, Carla Haddad Mardini, said the Church has supported UNICEF’s maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination programs 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 system,” Mardini said.
Bishop Caussé said the Church is committed to the wellbeing of mothers and children.
“Today’s donation is only one of many recent efforts with respected organizations to address hunger, malnutrition and immunizations,” he said. “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.”
African nations are also working together to support child immunization and polio outbreak response. A forum this weekend in Dakar, Senegal, is expected to bring together African heads of state to address the alarming declines in immunization rates and the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.