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UN, Vodafone Team Launch Program to Curb Measles in Africa - 2004-06-17

Two hundred million children in sub-Saharan Africa are to be vaccinated against measles next year as part of a five-year partnership agreement between the Vodafone Group Foundation and the United Nations Foundation. The two groups will contribute $27.5 million for health care projects.

This is the largest financial commitment made by any company to the U.N. Foundation, a private organization that supports U.N. programs. Under this five-year partnership, the foundation will give one dollar for every two dollars contributed by the Vodafone Group Foundation.

U.N. Foundation Chairman Ted Turner says seven-years ago he wanted to give the United Nations an outright grant of $1 billion. But, he says the secretary-general told him the United Nations could accept money only from governments, not from private sources.

"So, I said, well, I am not a government," he said. "But, I did think of creating a state and I was going to call it a state of confusion. "Of course, there are so many needs in the world today, and we definitely proved there was room and need for private sector aid to the United Nations."

About four years ago, the U.N. Foundation paid for accelerated measles immunizations in sub-Saharan Africa. During this period, more than 150 million children were vaccinated against a disease which kills more than half a million children every year.

The chief executive of Vodafone, Arun Sarin, says part of his Foundation's contribution will continue the work which already has begun.

"This year we will provide 1.75 million vaccinations for children," said Arun Sarin. "This will save more than 15,000 children from dying of measles."

The Vodafone - U.N. partnership also will support two UNESCO World Heritage programs. U.N. Foundation President Timothy Wirth says the funds will be used to protect valuable resources in Mount Kenya National Park and to protect the unique environment of the Galapagos Islands.

"Specifically, in the Galapagos, we have been working there on the eradication of invasive species and on programs that have been very effective, looking particularly at pigs and goats and stinging red ants," he said. "On two or three of the very important islands on the Galapagos."

The HIV-AIDS pandemic is the last of the three U.N. causes that will be supported in the first year of this partnership. The two foundations will work through agencies such as UNAIDS and the Global Fund to promote AIDS prevention and treatment programs.