NEW YORK, Oct. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The International Rescue Committee (IRC)
today announced a $2 million grant from Bill and Melinda Gates to strengthen
and enlarge the agency's health program for refugees around the world. This
is the largest institutional award the IRC has ever received for its health
"This generous gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will save
lives," said Reynold Levy, president of the IRC. "Some of the world's most
vulnerable people, especially women and young children, will escape harm
because of the work the grant will make possible. The grant is already being
put to use funding a health assessment of refugees who fled East Timor."
"Bill and Melinda are proud to support the IRC in their work to serve the
needs of people in crisis around the world," said Bill Gates, Sr., co-chair of
the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "The health needs of refugees are
urgent and organizations such as the IRC are right there on the scene to
Besides the health assessment of Timorese refugees, the grant is currently
funding similar work among refugees and displaced people in Kosovo and the
central African nations of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
These assessments are critically important, according to Dr. Richard
Brennan, director of the IRC's health program. In February, he said, an IRC
health assessment in a war-affected eastern province of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo led to the unexpected discovery that more than 1,200
young children had died of measles in the preceding six months. As a result,
the IRC organized an all-out campaign that vaccinated some 80,000 children
against measles and polio.
In northern Sudan, the IRC has already used a small portion of the grant
to rehabilitate a health clinic damaged by a flash flood in August, Dr.
Brennan said. "Thanks to the funds available because of the Gates grant, we
were able to get the clinic back in operation in a matter of days rather than
weeks or months," he said. "That was important, because the clinic is the
only source of health care for the people in that region."
Dr. Brennan said that besides strengthening the IRC's field programs and
emergency-response capabilities, the Gates Foundation grant will enable the
agency to augment its staff training and development, and to provide
centralized resources available to medical professionals deployed around the
"The IRC also plans to work closely with leading colleges of medicine and
public health to facilitate research, attract talented practitioners to the
field of humanitarian assistance and bring more of the vast resources of the
American health system to work on the problems of refugee health," Dr. Brennan
The IRC will also use a portion of the grant to encourage the development
and growth of indigenous nongovernmental organizations that focus on public
health programs for refugees and displaced people.
The IRC's health program is overseen by an advisory committee of health
experts chaired by Dr. Louis Sullivan, president of the Morehouse School of
Medicine in Atlanta and former Secretary of Health and Human Services. The
program's executive director is Frederick Burkle, M.D. He is also Professor
of Pediatrics and Surgery at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the
University of Hawaii and director of the Center of Excellence in Disaster
Management and Humanitarian Assistance in Honolulu.
The International Rescue Committee, founded in 1933 at the suggestion of
Albert Einstein to assist people fleeing Hitler, is among the largest
voluntary nonsectarian agencies serving refugees worldwide. In the United
States, the IRC operates a network of resettlement offices in 20 cities.
Overseas, IRC relief teams assist refugees and displaced people in 28
countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. Additional information is available on
the agency's web site at www.intrescom.org.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation places a major focus on helping to
improve people's lives through health and learning. Led by William H. Gates,
Sr. and Patty Stonesifer, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is located in
Seattle. Significant Foundation projects include: the Bill and Melinda Gates
Children's Vaccine Program, a $100 million commitment to speed the delivery of
lifesaving vaccines to children in developing countries; the Maternal
Mortality Reduction Program, a $50 million commitment to prevent pregnancy-
related deaths of women in developing countries; and the Gates Millennium
Scholars program, a $50 million annual commitment for 20 years to provide
financial assistance to high-achieving minority students who are in severe
financial need and would otherwise be excluded from higher education.
Additional information is available on the Foundation's Web site at
CONTACT: Ed Bligh of the International Rescue Committee, 212-551-3114.
SOURCE International Rescue Committee