2 minute readInternational, Volunteers
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It’s contagious.

That may be an obvious statement when referring to measles (the disease), and it’s usually considered a bad thing. But lately the buzz about measles online and across the country has me excited.

You see, the American Red Cross is a founding partner of the Measles Initiative – one of the most successful global health partnerships of our lifetime. We’ve been supporting mass vaccination campaigns in more than 60 impoverished countries for nearly 10 years, but recently I’ve seen awareness of the problem and support for the solution grow exponentially.

And just in time. We’re so close to our goal, but outbreaks throughout Africa and a significant funding gap are threatening to take innocent lives and erase all of our progress. It’s comforting to know that others understand the urgency and are willing to join the effort.

Take former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, for example. They recently coauthored an op-ed to remind world leaders that measles remains a persistent problem and detail what needs to be done to end the fight – for good.

The World Health Organization estimates that the combined effect of decreased financial and political commitment may result in a return to over 500,000 measles deaths a year by 2013, erasing progress achieved over the past 18 years.

Then came an exciting partnership with the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), for which all-star Candace Parker of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and well-known humanitarian Dikembe Mutombo of NBA fame donated their time and voices to a Public Service Announcement that debuted during the first round of WNBA Playoff games. Plus the WNBA, three of its teams and the American Red Cross chapters in Atlanta, Phoenix and Seattle raised the bar (and funds) to help vaccinate the equivalent of 67 villages last week.

As I write this post, last season’s champs, the Phoenix Mercury, are preparing to host another Vaccinate a Village night as they face off against the Seattle Storm in the Western Conference Finals this Sunday.

This success impressed our friends over at the ONE Campaign who blogged about the partnership and showed just how important the Measles Initiative is to the success of other world health initiatives.

(The) reduction in measles deaths accounts for approximately 23 percent of all progress to date on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 — an impressive statistic worth remembering as we look forward to the MDG Summit in September and ONE’s broader work on vaccines this fall and into next year.

To round out the week, Melinda Gates shared the winner of her foundation’s poster contest with GOOD to draw attention to the upcoming MDG Summit, which, among other things, aims to improve the health of mothers and children. Designers based in Milan and New York found their inspiration in the Measles Initiative’s success, creating a message that we hope will spread – faster than the disease itself.

Although all of this high-profile support is helping, we need people like you to maintain this momentum. As we enter our tenth year of saving lives, join the American Red Cross and its Measles Initiative partners in an effort to vaccinate children — village by village — across the globe. In less than a decade, we have immunized 700 million children against measles. But this is not enough.

450 people still die each day. You can prevent this fate.

With a $1 donation, you can help vaccinate one child. With help from your friends, classmates and coworkers, you can easily help vaccinate an entire village.

Visit MeaslesInitiative.org to learn how your community, classroom or clan can make a gift that will last a lifetime.