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Measles advocates look ahead to new goal for 2010
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Shilpika Das
 
March 9, 2007

Six years after its inception, the Measles Initiative partners met in Washington D.C. last week to review their accomplishments and look ahead to future goals. Having already helped to achieve an unprecedented reduction in measles deaths worldwide, the partners turned their attention to the new global goal: bringing measles deaths down by 90 percent by 2010 (compared to 2000).

Looking back

Spearheaded by five organizations– the American Red Cross, UN Foundation, UNICEF, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and World Health Organization – the Measles Initiative was launched in 2001 to reduce measles deaths globally. In 1999, measles killed an estimated 873,000 children worldwide with sub-Saharan Africa the most affected area. The Measles Initiative has helped to lower measles deaths by 75% in Africa and 60% worldwide – exceeding the goal to halve measles deaths between 1999 and 2005.

David Meltzer, Senior Vice President, International Services Department of the American Red Cross, delivers the opening speech at the kick-off of the 7th Annual Partners for Measles Advocacy meeting.
David Meltzer, Senior Vice President, International Services Department of the American Red Cross, delivers the opening speech at the kick-off of the 7th Annual Partners for Measles Advocacy meeting.
Photo credit: Eric Porterfield/American Red Cross

The Initiative has also mobilized more than $282 million to support national campaigns and hundreds of thousands of volunteers while supporting the vaccination of more than 349 million children. Building on its success in Africa and Asia, the Measles Initiative is expanding its support to campaigns around the world in 2007.

Planning ahead

On February 27 and 28, at the annual meeting held at the national headquarters of the American Red Cross, nearly 200 measles advocates came together to report on past campaigns and to address plans and challenges ahead.

The conference gave participants the opportunity to evaluate their strategies, refocus their efforts and share resources to achieve their new target. Speakers presented results from vaccination campaigns carried out in 2006 – which together reached more than 125 million children – and discussed their plans for accelerated measles vaccination efforts in 2007-2008.

After two days of extensive discussions, the partners agreed that it was essential that they sustain the gains made in Africa, while carrying out similar strategies for upcoming target countries – such as India and Pakistan – where measles deaths continue to be alarmingly high.

Jean Roy (left), Senior Public Health Advisor for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, receives a Special Recognition Award from Luke Greeves, Senior Director, American Red Cross, during the annual meeting.
Jean Roy (left), Senior Public Health Advisor for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, receives a Special Recognition Award from Luke Greeves, Senior Director, American Red Cross, during the annual meeting.
Photo credit: Eric Porterfield/American Red Cross

"We should incorporate the lessons from our past and use them to inform our work ahead," said David Meltzer, Senior Vice President of International Services for the American Red Cross. "Through these efforts, we will meet our goals and provide a healthier future for the children affected by this preventable disease."

The partners also focused on how to best integrate other health initiatives, such as vitamin A, de-worming medicine and, especially, insecticide-treated bed nets for malaria prevention. Bed nets are a highly effective tool against malaria, and the measles vaccination campaigns have proven to be an effective method for bed net distribution.

"Combining other health interventions in our campaigns enables us to maintain high coverage rates and increase the local capacity of communities for the future," explained Meltzer.

Moving Forward – Together

The Measles Initiative is a unique partnership that brings together experience and resources of its founding organizations, as well as governments, private companies, foundations, faith-based groups and volunteers. By drawing on the strengths of these diverse groups—and the energy and commitment of thousands of health workers and volunteers—the Initiative has helped to achieve a remarkable success in a short period of time.

However, challenges loom ahead. "This is not the time for complacency," said Meltzer. "We need to maintain our focus and keep the public and governments engaged in the fight against measles in order for us to reach our goal by 2010."


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