Imagine a disease so contagious that a single infected person riding on a crowded bus will unknowingly spread the virus to 90 out of 100 unvaccinated passengers. Of those infected, more than 10 percent will die while up to 30 percent of survivors will suffer permanent complications, such as hearing or vision loss, brain damage, pneumonia, vitamin A deficiency or encephalitis.
Tragically, this disease is real and claims the lives of nearly 90,000 people every year, most of them children. It is called measles.
Because of the Lions’ advocacy program, we’re able to mobilize people from the grassroots to the highest level of the government.
A flicker of hope
With proper immunizations, measles can be eliminated. That’s why Lions and the Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF) joined the Measles Initiative—a mass vaccination campaign across 31 countries and counting.
With an initial grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010, Lions focused their efforts on:
- Advocacy at the local, regional and national levels
- Direct involvement in social marketing and mobilization
- Financial support
As a result, 41 million children in Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali and Nigeria received vaccinations. This inspired Lions to step up their efforts, and they began actively supporting campaigns in Cameroon, Haiti, Kenya, Nepal, Uganda and Zambia. By 2012, Lions helped vaccinate more than 150 million children against measles.
“Because of the Lions’ advocacy program,” explains Past District Governor Dr. Tebebe Berhan of Ethiopia, “we’re able to mobilize people from the grassroots to the highest level of the government.”
“This is very necessary work. Health and social services are neglected areas in my country, and we are happy to have your help,” said Ram Baran Yadav, former President of Nepal.
Lions with a megaphone
What makes these efforts so effective is that Lions are a part of the communities they serve and know how to reach their neighbors. Whether going door-to-door to educate parents of young children, hosting parades and passing out flyers, or purchasing radio advertisements, Lions and their partners reach far and wide to spread the word. And they’re not stopping there.
From a flicker to a fire
In 2013, LCIF committed to raise US$30 million by December 2017, and actually exceeded that goal. The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Gates foundation matched the Lions’ funds for a total contribution of more than US$61 million to Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, an international organization dedicated to giving children living in the world’s poorest countries equal access to new and underused vaccines. As a result of this commitment, more than 110 million doses of the vaccine were procured.
“The Gates foundation is very proud to have been a partner in your early measles projects, and we’re excited to continue working together,” said William H. Gates, Sr., co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. With Lions in the lead, there is no telling how far we will go together.”
Visit LCIF.org/BE100 to learn how Campaign 100 will sponsor and deliver programs addressing the distinct needs of at-risk and vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, the disabled, females, orphans and others disproportionately impacted by social and economic factors and requiring special services.
Jamie Konigsfeld is a marketing content specialist at Lions Clubs International Foundation.