Immunization Fund Launched for World’s Poor

LONDON ~ British Finance Minister Gordon Brown launched a fund to immunize millions of children around the globe this week, calling it a great “Christmas present” for the world’s poor.

The £2.1-billion (US$4-billion) International Finance Facility for Immunisation aims to pay for 500 million children over the next decade to be protected against polio, measles, diphtheria and hepatitis.

The fund works by selling long-term bonds to international money markets to raise money for developing countries now, with interest on these paid back using future aid funding.

“We have it in our power, in this world, to prevent these diseases of polio, tuberculosis, of diphtheria, of tetanus; it is possible do to this,” Brown said.

“I think that is probably the best Christmas present for every child in the world,” he added.

Brown, the expected successor to Prime Minister Tony Blair, was to present religious leaders with bonds worth £670 that they are buying to show support for the initiative.

Among those giving their backing are the head of the Anglican church, Archbishop of Canterbury Doctor Rowan Williams, and umbrella group the Muslim Council of Britain.

Pope Benedict XVI was to be represented by Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, the Vatican said. Also attending the launch in London were to be U2 singer Bono and Bob Geldof, organizer of the Live 8 anti-poverty concerts last year.

The idea for the fund came from Brown’s Treasury and Britain’s Department for International Development. It has also been supported financially by Brazil, France, Italy, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Sweden.

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