Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Let every child have a name: The road to a world without measles

Sophie Blackall/Measles & Rubella Initiative

At its recent Measles & Rubella Initiative annual meeting held on 18-19 September in Washington D.C, the Initiative partners unveiled a new exhibit inspired by illustrator Sophie Blackall’s journey to the Democratic Republic of the Congo where she learned firsthand about measles and its devastating consequences.

The exhibit Let Every Child Have a Name: The Road to a World Without Measles is a series of evocative illustrations colored in Ms Blackall’s charming, insightful style. Viewers can join a pirogue as it travels to a remote village up the Congo river; watch health workers as they carefully map their communities for a measles campaign; and join children as they queue for hours with their families.

Families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo suffered the largest measles outbreak in 2011 with more than 135 000 cases and at least 1500 child deaths. The outbreaks continue this year in areas where children have not had access to measles vaccine which costs only US$1. Measles is especially fatal to children who are malnourished or otherwise have weakened immune systems.

“In some parts of Africa, families don’t name their children until the threat of measles has past,” said Ms Blackall. “That threat disappears entirely when children are vaccinated, and a child can be vaccinated for a single dollar. I was so inspired by the dedication and passion of health workers and families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I hope their illustrated stories will inspire others to get involved. Together we can support their efforts and work to end measles, and let every child have a name."

Ms. Blackall is an award-winning Brooklyn-based Australian artist who has illustrated over twenty books for children including Ruby’s Wish, Big Red Lollipop and the best-selling Ivy and Bean series which has more than two million copies in print. Ms. Blackall has also captured imaginations with her blog and book Missed Connections, and a celebrated poster for the New York transit authority.

The Measles & Rubella Initiative is a global partnership committed to ensuring no child dies from measles or is born with congenital rubella syndrome. Founded originally as the Measles Initiative in 2001, it’s 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.

Back in April 2012, the Initiative launched a new Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan which covers the period 2012-2020. The Plan includes new global goals.

By the end of 2015:

  • To reduce global measles deaths by at least 95% compared with 2000 levels.
  • To achieve regional measles and rubella/congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) elimination goals.

By the end of 2020:

  • To achieve measles and rubella elimination in at least five WHO regions.

The strategy focuses on the implementation of five core components:

  • achieve and maintain high vaccination coverage with two doses of measles- and rubella-containing vaccines;
  • monitor the disease using effective surveillance, and evaluate programmatic efforts to ensure progress and the positive impact of vaccination activities;
  • develop and maintain outbreak preparedness, rapid response to outbreaks and the effective treatment of cases;
  • communicate and engage to build public confidence and demand for immunization;
  • perform the research and development needed to support cost-effective action and improve vaccination and diagnostic tools.

Implementation of the Strategic Plan can protect and improve the lives of children and their mothers throughout the world, rapidly and sustainably. The Plan provides clear strategies for country immunization managers, working with domestic and international partners, to achieve the 2015 and 2020 measles and rubella control and elimination goals. It builds on years of experience in implementing immunization programmes and incorporates lessons from accelerated measles control and polio eradication initiatives.

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