msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/23/2009 3:31:51 PM ET 2009-02-23T20:31:51

Swedish furniture company Ikea says it will donate $48 million to UNICEF to help poor children in India.

The donation, announced Monday, will support UNICEF programs aimed at improving the health and survival of tens of millions of women and children in some of India's most deprived areas.

The donation makes the global furniture company the biggest corporate partner of UNICEF, with total commitments of more than $180 million, the U.N. agency said in a statement.

"Ikea's investment in children's well-being, despite the downturn in the global economy, sets a high standard for corporate partnership," said Saad Houry, UNICEF deputy executive director.

In 2000, UNICEF, Ikea and the government of India created a partnership to tackle child-labor problems including lack of access to education, disability and ill health in the country’s carpet belt. The program made it possible for 80,000 out-of-school children to get an education and 140,000 children and 150,000 women were immunized. More than 22,000 women were also able to create sustainable economic opportunities through self-help groups, UNICEF said.

The U.N. agency said the new donation would help it provide additional support for Indian national and state-led programs aimed at combating high mortality rates among children and mothers, and improving children's access to nutrition.

The money will also be used to improve clean water and to support sanitation and health projects, such as providing infants with immunization and vitamin supplements, it said.

The announcement was made on International Corporate Philanthropy day, celebrated at the United Nations in New York.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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