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Donations fund measles & polio vaccinations for kids in Haiti

"When my children are sick, I'm also suffering," says Leonel Peter—one of many parents whose kids received free measles, rubella and polio vaccinations in Haiti this year.

Leonel and his wife, Loramise, are eager to keep their children healthy. Their twins, a boy and girl, survived a complicated birth just seven months back. So when Red Cross volunteers came to their door and explained the health risks associated with measles, rubella and polio, they knew vaccinating them was the right thing to do.

Haiti’s national vaccination campaign—launched by the Ministry of Public Health and Population in March 2016—aims to reduce the infant mortality rate and keep the country free of measles, rubella and polio. The campaign managed to vaccinate more than 1.4 million children throughout the year.

Through the global Measles and Rubella Initiative, the American Red Cross provided $1 million to the 2016 national campaign for the purchase of vaccines and another $350,000 to the Haitian Red Cross, who conducts door-to-door outreach to parents like Leonel and Loramise.

Measles is a leading cause of death and disability among young children worldwide. Measles is highly contagious and can spread amongst children who are not immune at a rapid pace. Measles, rubella, and polio vaccinations have eliminated these diseases from Haiti, but continual efforts to vaccinate children are critical in keeping these diseases out of the Caribbean country. Rubella—another contagious infection—causes severe birth defects outside the region of the Americas. Unvaccinated children in Haiti remain at risk of importations of these diseases, so children must continue to be protected by vaccination.

Several weeks prior to the vaccination campaign, Haitian Red Cross volunteers went door-to-door, raising awareness among nearly 114,000 people and inviting mothers and parents to immunize all children under the age of five against measles, rubella and polio. The volunteers also distributed Vitamin A to children to fill nutrition gaps and aid in their development.

After a visit at from Red Cross volunteers, Loramise decided to take her two children, Stevenson and Stessica, to be vaccinated. Leonel is thankful for the free health services and vaccines given to children. "This vaccination campaign is very important because we might not be able to pay all these vaccines by our own means,” he states.

"I want my children to be healthy. This gives me peace of mind at work," says Leonel, who has been able to provide for his family because of his job as a security officer at the Caracol Industrial Park.

The 2016 national vaccination campaign against measles, rubella and polio cost the Haitian government $7.5 million. The American Red Cross contributed more than $1.3 million toward the campaign. During the 2012 campaign—which reached 2.9 million children—the American Red Cross contributed $2 million. The American Red Cross will continue to support the Haitian Red Cross to strengthen the Haitian health system and help parents like Leonel and Loramise realize a healthy future for their children.

"Since birth, I regularly vaccinate my children to prevent them from catching any diseases. And certainly, I'll keep doing it, "says Loramise.

For more information about American Red Cross’s work in Haiti, visit redcross.org/Haiti.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.