By Presley Dailey, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region
As we approach World Immunization Week, we want to focus on the work of the Red Cross Networks around the globe as we partner with multiple organizations to alleviate suffering from disease outbreaks, while educating populations on prevention methods, public safety and increasing the stability of communities for both current and future generations.
One of the many ways in which we help build safer communities is by administering and campaigning for important vaccines against illnesses like measles and rubella. By joining with other organizations in the Measles and Rubella Initiative, we help cultivate hope and high spirits for people around the world as we fight against the dangers that plague vulnerable communities.
The Red Cross and the Red Crescent network serve as the largest and most influential humanitarian effort on the planet, with bases and service sites in nearly every nation. The networks work together on developing disease prevention methods and vaccination campaigns, helping to educate on keeping people’s homes safe and helping them to prepare for emergency response. Together, the networks provide humanitarian aid to 1 in 65 people around the world through disaster relief efforts, disease prevention, emergency training, public education and the promotion of humanitarian law.
Regarding disease prevention and its impact on communities around the world, the Red Cross has been arguably the most successful with its partnership campaign against measles and rubella. Measles is an unforgiving disease that impacts high-risk populations, taking the lives of thousands of young children every year due to its high contagion rate and severely debilitating effects. The countries that are impacted the most by this disease are those with slow development where access to adequate healthcare is either highly limited or nonexistent, resulting in a malnourished population vulnerable to the spread of disease.
Measles is so damaging because it has long-lasting or permanent effects that alter the lives and abilities of those who survive it. It has been known to cause extensive brain damage or vision loss for children by the thousands with no healthcare provisions to change the outcome.
Fortunately, the severity of this situation has garnered the attention of the Red Cross and our global partners, prompting us to form alliances against the spread of disease with vaccination campaigns and public health initiatives. In the last 20 years, our organizational partners have helped us develop affordable and cost-effective methods of distributing vaccines in countries across the globe. Some of our most far-reaching campaigns reached places like Ethiopia, Kenya and Benin, where we vaccinated thousands of children and helped educate local communities about disease prevention.
These vaccinations have reduced the measles death rate by 62 percent globally in the last two decades. In 2001 alone, approximately two billion children were vaccinated against the disease, preventing up to 23 million deaths. The vaccines only cost about $2 dollars per child, so the ability to make a widespread impact on little money drives the initiative’s success.
Direct vaccinations make a huge difference, but they are not the only ways in which the Red Cross and our and partners alleviate crises worldwide. With thousands of Red Cross volunteers around the world, we can use face-to-face interactions, mass media platforms and the development of educational forms of entertainment to further our cause on a larger scale. These outreach methods have proven to be incredibly useful in our mission as we have successfully planted vaccination campaigns in more than 50-plus countries around the world, ensuring that millions of children in developing nations are able to receive vaccinations and education against measles and rubella.
Our international campaigns, initiatives and partnerships with humanitarian organizations have proven to make a difference in the lives of millions of people worldwide. With your continued support, we can plan for a better future and a healthier, brighter world.
To learn more about our international efforts and the Measles and Rubella Initiative, visit here.