BENGKULU, Indonesia – It’s a rare occasion to be in a room filled with screaming, crying children and see only smiles on mothers’ faces. But today is a no ordinary day – it’s measles vaccination day in Indonesia.
This infant is one of nearly 30 million Indonesian children receiving a measles vaccination.
(Photo Credit: Bonnie Gillespie/American Red Cross)
Led by the Indonesian Ministry of Health and Measles Initiative partners at the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the latest round of vaccinations aims to protect 7 million children in nine Indonesian provinces against measles.
Last year, more than 15,000 children in Indonesia contracted measles, one of the highest numbers of cases in the world.
“Indonesia is one of the priority areas for measles elimination, and the Measles Initiative has been already overwhelmingly successful in reducing deaths from the disease” said Dr. Sharmila Shetty, American Red Cross health delegate in Indonesia and special monitor for the latest campaign.
More than 1 million Indonesian children also miss their routine immunizations, so in addition to measles inoculations, children received polio vaccinations and vitamin A to boost their immune systems as part of unique integrated health campaign. Avian influenza educational materials were given to mothers in some provinces, and 1.5 million long-lasting insecticide-treated nets will be distributed to protect children and their families against malaria, helping make the Measles Initiative efforts truly comprehensive.
As part of Indonesia’s integrated campaign, long-lasting insecticide-treated nets also were distributed to protect children and their families against malaria, helping make the Measles Initiative efforts truly comprehensive.
(Photo Credit: Bonnie Gillespie/American Red Cross)
“Malaria is another big killer of children under 5, and while they are at the posts being vaccinated, it’s a great opportunity to give families insecticide-treated nets to help cut down the number of malaria deaths, too,” said Shetty. “Integrated campaigns like this are a practical way to reach at-risk populations with a number of health services simultaneously.”
This innovative strategy was modeled largely after the highly-successful Measles Initiative campaigns in Africa, where measles deaths have been reduced by 60 percent in the last five years compared to 2000. With efforts in Africa ongoing, Measles Initiative partners now are targeting Asian countries like Indonesia as well, where the threat of measles remains high.
By late 2007, Measles Initiative partners in Indonesia anticipate vaccinating 23 million children under the age of 5 and 13 million school children against the deadly disease.
Measles kills nearly a half million children globally each year. Integrated health campaigns, like this one in Indonesia, provide an opportunity for vaccinations at less than one dollar per child. (Photo Credit: Bonnie Gillespie/American Red Cross)
A successful measles campaign begins before vaccination day, though, and Red Cross Movement partners like the Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia or PMI) are instrumental in “getting the word out” about Measles Initiative activities through social mobilization.
PMI volunteers in targeted provinces canvassed their communities in the days leading up to the latest measles campaign, reaching even the most isolated and high-risk areas with the news of the upcoming, free vaccinations.
“We have participated in social mobilization for polio campaigns and other activities, so after training for the measles campaign, we already knew where to go and what areas would be most at risk,” said one PMI volunteer in Bengkulu province.
Indeed they did, because when vaccination day arrived, children and families turned up at local puskesmas or health clinics by the hundreds, even thousands, producing what preliminary reports show to be a highly-successful integrated health campaign in Indonesia. PMI volunteers remained active during the campaign as well, distributing thousands of insecticide-treated nets to help protect families from malaria.
“Indonesia is a particularly challenging place to do a campaign like this – it has a very large population and is spread out over 17,000 islands,” said Shetty. “But the campaign seems to have been very successful and is yet another way the American Red Cross has shown its support of major health initiatives in Indonesia.”
Launched in February 2001, the Measles Initiative is a long-term commitment to control measles deaths in Africa by vaccinating 200 million children and preventing 1.2 million deaths over five years. Leading this effort is the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Other key players in the fight against measles include the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and countries and governments affected by measles. While the Measles Initiative is focused in Africa where the majority of measles-related deaths occur, partners also work on a wide-range of health initiatives around the world, including measles control and other vaccination services outside of Africa.
You can help eliminate measles-related deaths in Africa by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross for the Measles Initiative. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Measles Initiative may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, International Services – Measles Initiative, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.