A Saudi Arabian charitable foundation announced today that it will give $50 million to the United Nations children’s agency to help eliminate measles, the largest private donation ever to UNICEF’s efforts.
The donation by Riyadh-based Alwaleed Philanthropies comes amid rising concern about the highly contagious disease, a leading cause of death among children, with recent outbreaks in Italy and Romania.
It will help vaccinate more than 51 million children in 14 countries, UNICEF said.
- children die from the effects of measles every day
Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s head, said the show of charity could inspire others to give to the immunisation effort.
“Alwaleed Philanthropies’ generosity will … serve as a catalyst to spur greater investment,” he said in a statement.
The gift is the largest single private donation ever made to UNICEF’s measles and rubella elimination efforts, a UNICEF spokeswoman said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus can lead to deadly complications like diarrhea, dehydration, respiratory infection and encephalitis and kills nearly 400 children every day.It can be prevented with two doses of a widely available and inexpensive vaccine but continues to infect tens of thousands of people globally.
Reported measles cases increased in Africa, Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean region in 2014 and 2015, according to WHO.
Princess Lamia bint Majed Al Saud, secretary general of Alwaleed Philanthropies, said the need to stamp out the disease is particularly pressing amid current humanitarian crises that increase risks of disease.
Citing wars, refugees and asylum seekers, she said: “A lot of factors now are changing.
“You have to do whatever you can,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Last year, the Americas became the first region in the world to be declared measles free.