SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday it has donated $20 million to help a program aimed at distributing coronavirus vaccines to poor countries around the world.
The donation from the humanitarian arm of the Utah-based faith is going to UNICEF as part of the organization’s work with the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative, which this week sent its long-awaited first deliveries to Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Officials have hailed the initiative as the first deliveries of the vaccine to poor countries during an ongoing outbreak, but it has been hampered by limited global supply of doses and logistical problems. The effort’s goal is to deliver 2 billion shots this year to world’s most vulnerable people in low- and middle-income countries.
Ghana received 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday and the Ivory Coast took delivery of 504,000 on Friday.
More than half of the 16.5 million church members of the faith known widely as the Mormon church live outside the United States, including 666,500 in Africa. Many serve faith outreach missions around the world aimed at recruiting new members.
Church officials hope the program helps children in these countries, where programs run by other organizations that provide children with health, nutritional and educational services have been disrupted by the pandemic, said Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint Charities in a statement.