Canada has given the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) $66 million in Canadian dollars in support of vital immunization and vitamin A distribution programmes that will save the lives of millions of youngsters in the poorest countries.
UNICEF said it will receive $32.3 million from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) over five years to help expand routine vaccination of children against such diseases as tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria, and tetanus. Another $33.6 million will go towards the extension of the agency's highly successful vitamin A campaign, which presently reaches more than 200 million children in over 70 countries.
The gift to UNICEF comes as part of a package of global health initiatives by CIDA, totalling $143.6 million over five years, the agency said. Canada is one of UNICEF's most vital supporters, contributing more than $73 million to the agency's immunization and vitamin A initiatives during the past six years.
An estimated 2.5 million child deaths are prevented annually through immunization and vitamin A programmes, according to UNICEF. Vitamin A strengthens the immune system, helping protect children against death and illnesses of all kinds. The gift from Canada will also help the agency expand the use of auto-disable syringes, which are usable only once and therefore reduce the risk of disease transmission through multiple use.
"We could not be more grateful for the vision and generosity of the Canadian Government," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said. "These contributions will have a profound impact on the lives of millions of children in the poorest countries. They'll never know how these life-saving vaccines and micronutrients reached them. But they will benefit for the rest of their lives."