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Pope's purchase of immunization bonds highlight of ambassador's service

.- The greatest moment in the tenure of the U.K. ambassador to the Holy See was the Pope's contribution to a British government-sponsored initiative to eradicate diseases in developing countries.

Ambassador Francis Campbell will be leaving in January for another overseas appointment, this time "further to the East," he said, noting that the exact destination will be made public "shortly." Reflecting on tenure in Rome which began in Dec. 2005 when he was just 35 years old, he said that the moment that stands out in his mind from his time as ambassador took place less than a year after his appointment.

If he had to pick a moment that rises above all of the great moments from the last five years, he commented, he would choose Pope Benedict's purchase of the immunization bond in Nov. 2006.

"He purchased the first bond for immunization and that scheme raised 1.6 billion U.S. dollars," the ambassador recalled.

The British government-initiated funding effort called the International Financing Facility for Immunization (IFFIm) was founded in 2006 to finance immunizations against polio, malaria and tuberculosis in the world’s 72 poorest countries, especially for children under 5 years old.

It was promoted within the GAVI Alliance, an organization composed of the World Bank, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and many other partners to offer immunizations and work towards the U.N. Millenium Development Goal for child health.

Ambassador Campbell called it "a very innovative international development financing mechanism, to try to raise money in the here and now, so that we can immunize children ... now, rather than have a 20-year program which would come too late for a lot of children."

He said that the Pope's purchase had an impact as he was followed in the action by a number of other religious leaders, thus reinforcing, through the "symbolic" contribution, "the moral dimension" of the development financing mechanism.

According to a Bloomberg news report, the first six bonds were purchased at their $1,000 face value by the Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Chief Rabbi, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Hindu Forum of Britain and the Network of Sikh Organizations.

Through a "big bang approach," made possible with the great amount of capital, diseases that have been eradicated or controlled in the developed world can be addressed on a broad scale in the developing world, said Ambassador Campbell

He noted that the Holy See was a "key partner" in the development of the concept of the immunization effort and when Pope Benedict bought the first bond, "for us it was a huge achievement."

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