LDS Church funds fight against measles in Africa

The LDS Church announced Wednesday that it is donating $3 million to the fight against measles in Africa.

"We are uniquely positioned to make a difference," said David Burton, presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We are always interested in projects relating to children."

The gift was announced in Washington at the premier of "Disease of the Wind," a documentary film chronicling the plight of those who contract measles on the African continent. The film examines the disease through the eyes of eight Los Angeles-area youths and actress Jane Seymour.

The church's donation will support the Measles Initiative, a long-term commitment to prevent 1.2 million measles deaths in Africa over five years by vaccinating 200 million children.

Leading the effort are the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Children Fund, World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization. Other key players include the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and countries and governments affected by measles.

The church will provide the money over three years and also participate in the administration of the program, using LDS volunteers in African regions where the church has a presence, Burton said. The church will also offer its meetinghouses for use as temporary clinics to provide vaccinations.

When the Red Cross asked the church to contribute to the Measles Initiative, LDS officials scrutinized the program and how it operates and decided it was "a superb fit for us," Burton said Wednesday.

"With our dollars and volunteers, we can help perhaps as many as 3 million children," he said.