Confronted with a number of devastating disasters in recent years including two tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the children of Indonesia face another deadly, but preventable threat: measles. To combat this disease and provide other life-saving health interventions, the Indonesian Ministry of Health will launch the third phase of an integrated health campaign on August 29. Aimed at reaching nearly 7 million children, this phase will focus on eight provinces in Sumatra and Nusa Tenggara Timur with measles vaccinations and vitamin A to strengthen children’s immune system. In addition, approximately 1.5 million long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) will be distributed to protect children and their families against malaria.
“After a disaster the threat of disease often increases due to the close living conditions and poor hygiene that result from people being displaced from their homes,” said Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation. “While the Measles Initiative cannot prevent natural disasters, we can focus on addressing persistent, everyday health issues in order to make communities safer, stronger and better prepared for future disasters.”
The Measles Initiative— a partnership led by the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)— will support the Ministry of Health in carrying out this integrated health campaign, part of the government’s goal of reducing measles and malaria infection nationwide. The Indonesian Red Cross, known locally as Palang Merah Indonesia (PMI), will help by informing communities of upcoming campaigns, mobilizing families to get their children vaccinated and providing follow-up services, such as education on proper net usage, once the campaigns have concluded.
“By working in collaboration with the government and local partners, like the Indonesian Red Cross, we are able to help give parents the means to protect their children from serious diseases in some of the hardest to reach areas,” said Dellaphine Rauch-Houkepon, senior field representative for the American Red Cross in Indonesia. “These efforts are essential for improving the health and resilience of children, and are part of the broader recovery efforts that have been ongoing since the devastating tsunami struck in December 2004.”
Measles can be prevented through a safe and effective vaccine, however, routine immunization rates in Indonesia were only 70 percent in 2004, and an estimated 30,000 children die from measles in Indonesia annually. The current campaign seeks to reach all children between six months and twelve years of age in eight provinces in Sumatra and Nus Tenggara Timur with measles vaccinations and vitamin A. The LLINs will be distributed across 25 districts in seven provinces in Sumatra. In addition, the campaign will include polio vaccinations for 3.6 million children below five years old. Mothers and children in areas affected by avian influenza will also receive educational materials on how to protect themselves and their birds from this deadly disease. The goal is to reach a total of 23 million children and 13 million school children throughout the country by the end of the multi-phased campaign.
The three phases of the Indonesia campaign aim to strengthen the country’s immunization systems including areas affected by the tsunami, protecting children against diseases and making communities stronger for the future.
The Measles Initiative, launched in 2001, is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally, with the goal of cutting measles deaths by 90% by 2010 compared to 2000. During its first five years (2001-2005), the Initiative supported the vaccination of more than 213 million children in Africa, saving 1.2 million lives. Through these efforts, measles cases and deaths have dropped by 48% worldwide and by 60% in Africa, where measles deaths and disability are highest. Building on its success in Africa, the Initiative has expanded into Asia. The Initiative increasingly provides additional life-saving health interventions in its campaigns, including vitamin A, de-worming medicine and insecticide-treated nets for malaria prevention. The Measles Initiative has mobilized more than $200 million to support campaigns in more than 43 countries in Africa and Asia. Leading these efforts are the American Red Cross, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Foundation, UNICEF and World Health Organization. For more information or to make a donation, log on to www.measlesinitiative.org.