NEW YORK – Billionaire financier George Soros pledged $50 million on Wednesday to help the United Nations tackle extreme poverty and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The money will be spent on the Millennium Villages project, which provides bed nets to stop mosquitoes that carry malaria, fertilizers to replenish depleted soils, school lunches for malnourished children and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.
The project is trying to implement on a rural level the U.N.'s eight Millennium Development Goals for 2015 which range from cutting extreme poverty in half to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education.
"This is a very important project. It's meant to serve as a prototype that can be scaled up. If it's successful, it can really be scaled up and make a major impact on rural poverty in Africa," Soros told Reuters.
Millennium Villages began operating last year and is now working in 79 villages across 10 countries. The five-year project costs $300,000 a year for a village of 5,000 people.
"Most businesses and philanthropists who are interested in working in the poorest places do not have effective ways to do so right now," said Jeffrey Sachs, president and co-founder of the Millennium Promise Alliance.
"They want to fit their efforts into an overall strategy and to bring innovative business thinking to bear," he said.
The Millennium Promise Alliance was created in part to work closely with private-sector leaders to help promote economic takeoff in Africa.