NEW YORK, April 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Saudi
Arabian charitable foundation said on Monday it will give $50
million to the United Nations children's agency to help
eliminate measles, the largest private donation ever to UNICEF's
The donation by Riyadh-based Alwaleed Philanthropies comes
amid rising concern about the highly contagious disease, a
leading cause of death among children, with recent outbreaks in
Italy and Romania.
It will help vaccinate more than 51 million children in 14
countries, UNICEF said.
Anthony Lake, UNICEF's head, said the show of charity could
inspire others to give to the immunization effort.
"Alwaleed Philanthropies' generosity will ... serve as a
catalyst to spur greater investment," he said in a statement.
The gift is the largest single private donation ever made to
UNICEF's measles and rubella elimination efforts, a UNICEF
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus
can lead to deadly complications like diarrhea, dehydration,
respiratory infection and encephalitis and kills nearly 400
children every day.
It can be prevented with two doses of a widely available and
inexpensive vaccine but continues to infect tens of thousands of
Reported measles cases increased in Africa, Europe and the
Eastern Mediterranean region in 2014 and 2015, according to WHO.
Princess Lamia bint Majed Al Saud, secretary general of
Alwaleed Philanthropies, said the need to stamp out the disease
is particularly pressing amid current humanitarian crises that
increase risks of disease.
Citing wars, refugees and asylum seekers, she said: "A lot
of factors now are changing.
"You have to do whatever you can," she told the Thomson
Alwaleed Philanthropies' founder, billionaire investor and
Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, pledged in 2015 to give his
entire $32 billion fortune to charity over time.
It has so far spent money on health care and women's rights
in more than 124 countries.
Last year, the Americas became the first region in the world
to be declared measles free.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Ellen
Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)