.- Pope Benedict XVI today became the holder of the first bond issued by the British government to help fund immunization programs for children under the age of 5 in the developing world.
Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was expected to fly to London to attend the bond sale on behalf of the Pope. The pontiff reportedly wants to show his full support for the initiative, which was first presented at the Vatican during a 2004 conference on poverty and globalization, reported ANSA.
"Benedict XVI's gesture, at once real and symbolic, expresses the Holy See's full support for an initiative which, with broad international guarantees, will produce immediate and direct advantages in the field of aid and development, producing new financing with specific and urgent aims," says a Vatican communique made public today. For example, thanks to the IFFIm, "by 2015, in 72 countries the lives of 10 million people will have been saved, 5 million of them children."
Britain is one of eight countries that have pledged support for a new international initiative was designed to help rich countries achieve some of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
The International Financing Facility for Immunization (IFFIm) aims to finance immunizations against polio, malaria and tuberculosis in the world’s 72 poorest countries.
IFFIm’s anticipated investment of $4 billion is expected to help prevent five million child deaths between 2006 and 2015.
Other countries that have committed to this initiative include France, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Brazil and South Africa who have promised to do so soon.
The initiative, which is backed by the World Bank, gets governments that have pledged immunization aid, to issue bonds for this purpose now. Britain has currently pledged the most funds to the program — 1.38 billion pounds over 20 years.
The money lent by bond purchasers goes straight into the vaccination programs in some 72 of the world's poorest countries.
In a brief address delivered in English at the moment of purchasing the first bond, Cardinal Martino said: "People living in poverty are looking forward to the time when corruption at the various levels of government or in the social sector will no longer hinder opportunities for development from reaching all members of society. A government that is truly responsive to the needs of its people is not only a necessity for development, it should also be seen as a right.
"Pope Benedict XVI believes that this is the time," he added. "This is why he has decided that the Holy See would participate in the International Finance Facility bond program. His Holiness recognizes the need to quickly provide the funds in order to respond to poverty, hunger, the lack of educational and literacy opportunities and the ongoing fight against the scourge of malaria and the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis."