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Media Contact:
Nicole Brown
630-468-6887

Preventing Measles, Improving Health for 41 Million Children

View a video from the Madagascar campaign

The Lions-Measles Initiative pilot program is a partner in the fight against measles and is targeting vaccinating 41 million children in Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali and Nigeria. Lions and Lions Clubs International Foundation are aiming to vaccinate a target of at least 95 percent of children ages 9 to 47 months old.

The Foundation is partnering with the Measles Initiative to support a world-wide effort to protect children from measles and strengthen routine immunization services. The partnership program is jointly funded by LCIF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Vaccination campaigns in Ethiopia and Madagascar in October targeted to vaccinate more than 10 million children. Vaccination campaigns will launch in northern Nigeria in January and southern Nigeria and Mali in February and aim to vaccinate an additional 31 million children.

“At a health center in a rural village in Madagascar, I met Marie Louise Razafindrazanana, who brought her nine-month old son, Patrick, to be vaccinated. She knew all too well the dangers of measles, as she lost her daughter to the disease,” said Eberhard J. Wirfs, Chairperson of Lions Clubs International Foundation. “But these mothers know that we Lions are giving their children hope for a long, healthy life.”

Lions have long been committed to improving health for children and preventing blindness on a global scale. Involvement from Lions in the pilot program includes advocacy at all levels, promotion of vaccination activities and financial support. Lions’ leadership teams in the four pilot countries are working closely with Ministries of Health and other Measles Initiative partners.

“We are delighted that Lions Clubs International is becoming more involved in the fight against measles and strengthening routine immunization,” said Dr. Walt Orenstein, Deputy Director, Vaccine Delivery, at the Gates Foundation. “With its world-wide outreach, Lions is an important partner in ensuring that safe and effective vaccines reach families who need them most.”

Measles is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in children. Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that can lead to blindness or death in children. Although vaccinations are readily available in developed countries, the disease remains a heavy public health burden in the developing world. Experts estimate that over the next three years, 1.7 million children could die from this disease if vaccination efforts subside. The disease is also a major cause of preventable blindness, particularly among children, affecting the same underserved populations.

The Measles Initiative is a long-term partnership among world leaders in public health that aims to reduce measles mortality and morbidity globally. UNICEF, WHO, U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American Red Cross, and the United Nations Foundation are among the organizations contributing to these efforts. This global partnership has supported the vaccination of more than 700 million children since 2001.

"The Measles Initiative is very excited and optimistic about our new partnership with Lions. Lions, with members in many Measles Initiative priority countries, can provide an extremely valuable combination of social mobilization and organizational capability with political advocacy that complement our other partner organization activities. We also welcome the resource mobilization efforts already undertaken by Lions to help with campaign costs in 2010, as we face a large funding shortfall," said Andrea Gay, Executive Director of Children's Health, United Nations Foundation.

Through combined efforts, the impact made in the fight against measles will greatly increase. As a result, more people without access to healthcare will be vaccinated against this infectious and deadly disease and higher numbers of measles-free communities will exist worldwide.

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Lions Clubs International Foundation
Lions Clubs International Foundation is the charitable arm of Lions Clubs International, the largest service club organization in the world with 1.35 million members in 207 geographic areas and countries. LCIF was ranked by a Financial Times' study as the number one non-governmental organization with which to partner. Through SightFirst, LCIF has restored sight or saved the vision of 30 million people. Learn more about LCIF at www.lcif.org.

Measles Initiative
Launched in 2001, the Measles Initiative—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—provides technical and financial support to governments and communities for mass vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance around the world. The Initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 700 million children helping to reduce measles deaths by 78 percent globally (compared to 2000). To learn more, visit www.measlesinitiative.org.

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