Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Next Billion: Measles Immunizations Reach Milestone

August 04, 2011

A significant milestone in the global effort to eliminate measles has been reached:  the Measles Initiative has immunized its one billionth child.

Ten years ago, the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization formed a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally:  The Measles Initiative.

In 1980, measles was one of the most deadly childhood diseases. In fact, it caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year. Thanks to governments, the United Nations, and the Measles Initiative, this is no longer the case.  

Measles mortality has decreased by an impressive 78 percent worldwide. The decline in measles-related deaths – from an estimated 733,000 deaths in 2000 to 164,000 in 2008 – accounts for nearly a quarter of the overall decrease in childhood mortality.

With support coming from all corners of the world, the Measles Initiative has stopped outbreaks, improved treatment, and protected one billion children from one of the deadliest diseases. This is incredible progress and shows what we can accomplish with continued commitment to helping the next billion children live healthier lives.

But (there’s always a but) we can’t stop now. Progress is fragile, and measles could come back with a vengeance if we don’t continue to immunize children.

It’s time to think about the next billion children and how we can protect them from not only measles, but the many other deadly – and vaccine-preventable - diseases.

In May, I traveled to Mozambique, where I met mothers who had walked more than 15 miles to make sure their child received their measles vaccines. We can help make sure they have access to those vaccines.

Every hour, nearly 300 children around the world die of diseases – like measles – that could easily have been prevented with vaccines.

Through smart investments in life-saving vaccines, we can protect the next generation of children from measles. We can eliminate polio. We can immunize children in developing countries against one of the biggest killers:  pneumonia.

By expanding access to vaccines around the world, we can help give the next billion children a chance at a healthy and happy life.

That’s why the UN Foundation and its partners are launching a new global vaccines campaign in September. By raising awareness and funds, advocating for greater commitment in Washington, and working with the UN, this campaign to decrease vaccine-preventable child deaths and give every child a shot at a healthy life.

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