Measles crisis in Kyrgyzstan: Red Crescent volunteers take the lead

A Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent volunteer administers a measles vaccine to a young boy.

A Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent volunteer administers a measles vaccine to a young boy.

Photo: Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan

Amidst a concerning surge in measles cases, the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan (RCSK), in collaboration with the IFRC, has launched an immunization campaign to combat what has become a significant threat to many communities in Kyrgyzstan.

As of early September, Kyrgyzstan has reported a staggering 1,982 confirmed cases, making measles a major threat to communities in the Kyrgyz Republic and one of the highest measles incidences globally.

A highly contagious disease, and a leading cause of child mortality worldwide, measles is almost completely preventable with vaccination. The first major challenge in tackling the outbreak lies in dispelling misinformation about the disease and vaccinations.

“Tackling measles and other communicable diseases begins and ends in communities,” says Chingiz Djakipov, president of the RCSK, adding that communities play a pivotal role in addressing diseases like measles. ”Something as simple as a vaccine can help prevent many unavoidable deaths and illnesses. But we have a far way to go to tackle vaccine hesitancy in the country,”.

Additionally, the National Society and the IFRC have deployed trained volunteers and staff country-wide to support the government’s national immunization campaign. Their mission includes raising awareness about measles and rubella prevention, dispelling misinformation, alleviating fears, addressing questions, and facilitating access to vaccination points and health services.

As an additional help, IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) allocated 139,000 Swiss francs to bolster the RCSK’s efforts in curbing the outbreak. Over the coming months, the Red Crescent Society aims to reach 70,000 individuals across the most affected regions and cities, including the cities of Osh and Bishkek cities, and the Osh and Chui regions.

“Debunking misinformation about the disease and vaccinations is the first major hurdle to tackling this next outbreak,” says Seval Guzelkilinc, head of IFRC’s Central Asia Country Cluster Delegation. “For many years, the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan has played a fundamental role in responding to health-related emergencies across the country and it is seen as a reliable and trusted source of information for communities.”

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