George Soros and the Open Society Foundations have pledged $27.4 million to the Millennium Villages Project to boost development in villages across rural sub-Saharan Africa, the Associated Press reports.
Soros, the founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations, also pledged up to $20 million in loans to support business projects within the targeted villages over the next five years. In 2006, Soros made a five-year, $50 million pledge to the project despite opposition from OSF board members.
The flagship initiative of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, MVP aims to help five hundred thousand people in ten African countries achieve, by 2015, the eight development goals established by the United Nations in 2000. The MDG goals include reducing extreme poverty by half, eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education, reducing child mortality by two-thirds, reducing maternal mortality by two-thirds, and halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
According to a new report that looked at MVP's first five years, the proportion of households in targeted villages with access to improved drinking water jumped from 17 percent to 68 percent, while the number of students benefitting from school meal programs increased from 25 percent to 75 percent.
Responding to the news, Jeffrey Sachs, special advisor to the UN secretary-general on the Millennium Development Goals project and director of the Earth Institute, said, "We are thrilled by the rapid gains that the Millennium Village communities are making in the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease."