Beating “The Last Measle”

The Red Cross and Red Crescent are symbols recognized worldwide. Its presence—on the sides of medical ambulances, emergency response vehicles, T-shirts of volunteers—immediately instills hope and relief to the millions of people impacted by conflict and disaster. And while the American Red Cross is known for its work in both domestic and international disasters, there is another aspect of our work that is not as well known. But to one billion children in 80 different countries around the world, this work has literally saved their lives.

The Measles Initiative is a partnership—led by the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and World Health Organization—committed to reducing measles deaths worldwide. And since the partnership in 2001, we’ve been doing just that.

As a result of the Initiative, more than 1 billion children in more than 80 countries have received a measles vaccination. To date, the partnership has invested $670 million in measles control activities, helping to save an estimated 4.3 million lives. We do this through technical and financial support to governments and communities conducting mass vaccination campaigns, improving routine immunization services, and establishing effective disease surveillance. This is critical because as much success as the Measles Initiative has had, if vaccine coverage doesn’t reach 95 percent of a population, the virus doesn’t go away.

One of the strengths of the Red Cross and Red Crescent network is the power of our millions of volunteers around the globe. Because of this strength, the American Red Cross focuses on social mobilization for the Measles Initiative. Volunteers use mass media, rallies, door-to-door visits and educational entertainment to reach families in distant villages and urban settlements who typically do not have access to routine health services. This personal outreach results in parents bringing their children in to be vaccinated, leading to increased participation in mass vaccination campaigns by as much as 10 percent. Greater participation means greater immunization coverage and greater chances of warding off outbreaks.

One day, we hope to eradicate “The Last Measle.”

This post was provided to Red Cross Chat by Guest Blogger Niki Clark

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