Closer to a World Without Measles


February 22, 2014

Itchy spots, often joining together to form a rash. Fever. Watery eyes and runny nose. Achy body. And tragically, sometimes even death. The symptoms for measles are varied and we can easily forget that this disease is still taking the lives of children — especially those under the age of five — around the world. So what is the state of measles today?

Just a couple of weeks ago, United Nations Foundation CEO, Kathy Calvin traveled to the UN Refugee Agency’s Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya, home to many families from South Sudan and Somalia. The families she met have faced so much: turmoil, insecurity, or violence. But the sad reality is that they also face the deadly threat of infectious diseases like measles.  This risk often emerges in conflict zones as routine immunization breaks down and humanitarian aid is restricted. Just in the past several weeks, measles has caused the death of at least 30 children in South Sudan.


Crisis situations are, unfortunately, not the only places where we find measles. Last year, more than 20 million infants worldwide did not receive the measles vaccine, putting them at risk of contracting this deadly – but preventable – disease.

Good News!

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report showing that annual deaths from measles have reached historic lows. From 2000 to 2012 an estimated 13.8 million deaths have been prevented by measles vaccination. We love hearing how solutions are working and more importantly, how children’s lives are being saved.

Despite this gain, there is still much work to be done in the progress towards getting measles eliminated from the planet. Here in the US, we have officially reached ‘measles elimination’ status and our health systems have been able to respond effectively to imported cases. But in parts Africa, Europe, and the Mediterranean, there is not the same success. If this doesn’t improve, outbreaks will continue and the global dream of getting rid of this disease forever, will stall.

The Measles & Rubella Initiative is committed to ensuring that no child dies from measles. A global partnership led by the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and WHO, the Initiative helps countries to plan, fund, and measure efforts to stop measles and rubella for good.

Take Action Challenge

Support the Shot@Life’s Catapult project to vaccinate 10,000 children against measles. The cost of administering measles vaccines is just $2.50 per child.  You can help one child or many. Together through the the Measles & Rubella Initiative, we can enable the WHO to reach its goals to eliminate measles for good.

Image: courtesy of the Alex Kamweru / United Nations Foundation

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