Measles is a leading killer of children in many developing countries where prevention, treatment and health care can be difficult to access. But with strong global support from governments, health workers and dedicated volunteers, significant progress is being made in the fight against measles.
A Malagasy Red Cross volunteer marks a child’s finger indicating she received a measles vaccine.
(Photo: Gene Dailey/American Red Cross)
That’s the message from today’s announcement that the Measles Initiative has helped to reduce measles deaths in Africa by 91 percent—between 2000 and 2006— thereby reaching the goal to cut measles death by 90 percent four years ahead of the United Nations’ goal. Globally, measles deaths have dropped by 68 percent during this same time.
In 2001, a global health initiative—led by the American Red Cross, UNICEF, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization— was launched to reduce measles deaths in Africa. Since 2005, the Initiative has expanded to Asia and other parts of the world where children are at risk.
Since 2001, the Measles Initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 400 million children in over 50 countries. The vaccination campaign includes additional life-saving health interventions, including Vitamin A, de-worming medicine and insecticide-treated bed nets for malaria prevention.
A key to this success are volunteers at Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world. The American Red Cross provided financial and technical support to national societies, where volunteers work in advance to spread the word about upcoming campaigns.
“We literally go door-to-door informing, educating and motivating mothers and caregivers about the critical need to vaccinate their children,” said Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, chairman of the American Red Cross. “These mobilization efforts are essential for our success, helping us consistently reach more than 95 percent of the vulnerable population and saving countless lives.”
Still measles continues to take the lives of nearly 600 children under 5 years each day – approximately 242,000 children each year.
Although the fight against this deadly disease is not over, measles deaths are being dramatically reduced, ensuring that children around the world have a safer and healthier future.
The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launched in 2001, the Initiative— led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and WHO—provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns. To learn more, visit www.measlesinitiative.org.