Benedict wants to immunise children against poverty

Pope Benedict yesterday purchased the first bond issued by the British government to help fund immunisation programs for children in the developing world as the Vatican renews its call to cancel poor countries' debt.

The Catholic News Agency reports that Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was to fly to London to attend the bond sale on behalf of the Pope.

The International Financing Facility for Immunisation is calling on governments to sell the bonds to finance immunisations against polio, malaria and tuberculosis in the world's 72 poorest countries.

"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 published yesterday.

The Facility'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 have promised to do so soon.

The initiative, which is backed by the World Bank, gets governments that have pledged immunisation 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."

Cardinal Martino also renewed a long-standing call by the Vatican for debt relief for the poorest countriess.

Debt relief will open the way for initiatives that will provide universal access to those goods that "will satisfy the basic necessities of life and development such as drinkable water, safe sanitation, nutrition programs, health care, education and adequate shelter as well as micro-credit, microfinance and employment opportunities," Cardinal Martino said.

Time to cancel poor countries' debt, says Vatican (AsiaNews, 7/11/06)
Pope buys 'vaccination' bond to fight disease in developing countries (Catholic News Agency, 7/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

Vatican urges caution on refusing 'unethical vaccines'(CathNews, 25/7/05)

8 Nov 2006