Cardinal welcomes International Finance Facility for Immunisation


The first step to raise funds for a mass immunisation programme for children in the developing world was taken at a ceremony held in London on Tuesday, November 7th 2006, attended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and representatives of Britain's faith groups.

The International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) will deliver 4 billion dollars over the next ten years to be spent on the immunisation of up to 500 million children in the world's 70 poorest countries against preventable diseases like polio, measles and diphtheria. It is estimated this will save 5 million lives in the years up to 2015, and a further 5 million afterwards, and lead to the eradication of polio.

The IFFIm uses long-term, binding commitments from donors as collateral against which to borrow money up front from institutional and private investors, which can be spent immediately on mass vaccination programmes. Commitments have so far been made by the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Brazil and South Africa, together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

1 billion dollars

In total, today's inaugural bond issue is expected to raise up to 1 billion dollars. The proceeds will go immediately to help the GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) to develop new and under-used vaccines, speed up the development of new vaccines in poorer countries and improve health services.

Recognising this combination of strong moral purpose and the power to raise finance, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Hindu Forum of Britain and the Network of Sikh Organisations have agreed to buy the first six IFFIm bonds. Anti-poverty campaigners Bono and Bob Geldof have also bought bonds.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, said:

"I warmly welcome the IFFIm initiative, which will be of enormous benefit to nations and people in great need and am pleased that the work of the past three years has thus come to fruition. The lives of countless children will be saved as a direct result of this most worthwhile project. I am delighted that Pope Benedict XVI has also indicated his full support in a very practical way."

Cardinal Renato Martino, representing His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI,

"His Holiness is pleased to help light the way for others who might also wish to join him in empowering those living in poverty to take an active role in providing themselves and their family life the opportunity to build a better life,"

Speaking in advance of the launch, the Chancellor said:

"Millions of people campaigned to Make Poverty History last year, and now we can say to them all: we are delivering the promises we made, your hopes are becoming a reality, and millions of young children's lives will be saved as a result."