The American Red Cross’ partnership in the Measles & Rubella Initiative has led to one of the most successful global health stories in recent history: the vaccination of more than 1.2 billion children since its founding in 2001.
Since then, the Initiative—led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization—has supported 80 countries through mass vaccination campaigns – about 225 million of them in 2011. These efforts have helped to raise measles vaccination coverage to 84% globally and reduced measles deaths by 71%.
While this progress is significant, measles still claimed an estimated 158,000 lives in 2011 — more than 430 deaths each day, or 18 deaths every hour, even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine exists.
The journey of a measles vaccine, from lab to village, is a long one. In many countries where the American Red Cross works, volunteers serve a key role in this journey as social mobilizers. These volunteers—trusted neighbors and community members—literally go door-to-door, explaining the importance of receiving routine immunizations and participating in campaigns, and serve as the backbone of successful campaigns. Without social mobilization, beating these diseases is simple impossible.
In honor of World Immunization Week 2013, the Initiative shares a remarkable photo story showing the efforts of health workers in Mongolia as they strive to reach every child with the measles and rubella vaccine. At times travelling by jeep, reindeer, rope-drawn ferry and foot, workers attempt to immunize nomadic herder communities who account for a quarter of the country’s children.
The campaign, led by the Mongolian government and supported by the Initiative, was held in October 2012, and reached over 95% of targeted children aged between 3 and 14 years.
All Photos: UNICEF/Brian Sokol