The government of Pakistan is launching a new phase of the largest-ever national measles vaccination campaign, with a goal of reaching more than 63 million children by March 2008. This campaign will protect millions of children against measles in Pakistan, and will also be a significant step toward reaching the global goal of reducing measles deaths by 90 percent by the year 2010 (compared to 2000).
“Pakistan is a priority country in the global fight against measles. On behalf of the partners of the Measles Initiative, I commend the government of Pakistan for its leadership in this life-saving work. The partners in the Measles Initiative are proud to stand with the Government of Pakistan in fostering a healthier future for the children of Pakistan,” said Kathy Bushkin Calvin, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the United Nations Foundation. “In Pakistan and around the world we will continue our work to eliminate measles deaths altogether.”
An estimated 21,000 children die from measles and its complications in Pakistan each year. From July 2 through 18, 2007, 1.5 million children aged 9 months to 13 years will be vaccinated against measles in eight districts in the western province of Balochistan. To reach the goal, the national campaign is being conducted in phases throughout the country from March 2007 to March 2008.
The first phase of the campaign was conducted in March 2007 in four districts–Mirpur, Mardan, Gujrat, and Dadu–and successfully reached 96 percent of children in the target age group. In the current phase, more than 600 vaccination teams comprised of nearly 3,200 trained health staff and social mobilization volunteers will work throughout the 17-day campaign, reaching children in remote rural areas of the province. Volunteers will support community outreach efforts by informing mothers and caretakers about the importance of measles vaccinations and where to take their children to get vaccinated.
This campaign is led by the government of Pakistan, with financial and technical support from the Measles Initiative. Measles mortality reduction activities in Pakistan have also benefited from financial assistance provided by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization for strengthening their routine immunization system. In addition, the field staff from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has also played a major role in supporting the planning and implementation of vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance in Pakistan.
“We are working in partnership, both locally and globally, to fulfill our commitment to make measles vaccinations accessible to every child in Pakistan,” said David Meltzer, Senior Vice President of International Services for the American Red Cross. “Pakistan’s mountainous terrain, compounded by damage from recent natural disasters and the sheer numbers of children needing vaccinations, will make this one of the most challenging measles campaigns yet.”
The Measles Initiative is a partnership led by the American Red Cross, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UN Foundation, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). Largely through the commitment of national governments and support from the Measles Initiative, measles deaths were reduced by more than 60 percent globally between 1999 and 2005. This surpassed the global goal of reducing measles deaths by more than 50 percent (compared to 1999).
Now, the Initiative is focusing on an ambitious new goal of lowering measles deaths worldwide by 90 percent by 2010. To reach this goal, the Initiative is supporting follow-up campaigns in Africa to vaccinate the children born since the initial vaccination campaigns, along with first-time vaccination campaigns in countries where the measles burden remains high. Among countries that have yet to carry out a national measles vaccination campaign, Pakistan is one of the most important countries because of its large population and high number of children at risk of measles.