Measles is one of the leading killers of children worldwide and it killed more than 1 million children in 1999. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) supports and celebrates the Measles Initiative, which has vaccinated over 600 million children in more than 60 countries since 2001.

Measles is easily preventable with a safe and effective vaccine. It costs less than 1 US dollar to vaccinate a child. Since the Measles Initiative began in 2001, there have been dramatic global decreases in childhood deaths.

Between 2000 and 2007:

  • Global measles mortality was reduced by 74% from an estimated 750,000 deaths in 2000 to an estimated 197,000 deaths in 2007.
  • Measles mortality in the Africa region fell by 89%
  • Approximately 3.6 million deaths were avoided as a result of accelerated measles activities (both in routine immunization coverage and measles campaigns)

The Measles Initiative

The Measles Initiative is a global partnership committed to reducing measles deaths. It is led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Measles Initiative provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance. It has supported vaccination campaigns in more than 60 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia. The partnership is now focused on the United Nations’ goal of reducing measles deaths by 90% worldwide between 2000 and 2010. This will require strong political commitment and continuing support from global partners such as the IFRC.

The IFRC’s Measles & Polio Initiative directs funds to enable National Societies to participate in their countries’ vaccination campaigns.

National Societies and their volunteers work to maximize vaccination coverage by reaching the most vulnerable people in the most hard-to-reach and impoverished areas. This is done through community-level activities, including house-to-house visits to promote vaccination. More than 100,000 Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers have participated in measles campaigns to date, in almost every region of the world.

Since 2001, over 8 million Swiss francs have been invested in more than 50 vaccination campaigns. Our work supports and celebrates that of the Measles Initiative.

Examples of National Societies’ fight against measles:

Georgia Red Cross Society mobilized 300 volunteers for a measles/rubella campaign from 20 October to 6 November 2008. The National Society was responsible for activities in Kvemo Kartli region, traditionally a difficult-to-reach area as its population refuse vaccination on religious grounds. The volunteers reached approximately 185,000 eligible beneficiaries (aged 6-27 years) in all 7 districts of the region during the campaign.

Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) mobilized over 1,600 volunteers for an historic measles campaign that vaccinated over 25 million children in November and December 2008. Measles vaccination was integrated with oral polio vaccination, Vitamin A supplements and, in select states, distribution of mosquito nets to protect against malaria.

NRCS has often been a partner in national and sub-national vaccination campaigns, most frequently against polio (Nigeria is one of the four remaining polio endemic countries in the world). At community level, NRCS uses various strategies to promote vaccination, including mothers clubs, child adoption and youth-to-youth approaches.

Other key partners in the fight against measles include:

  • Becton, Dickinson and Company
  • the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • the Canadian International Development Agency
  • the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • the GAVI Alliance
  • the Izumi Foundation
  • the Kessler Family Foundation
  • Merck Co.
  • the Vodafone Foundation
  • and countries and governments affected by measles


WHO Measles Fact Sheet

Measles Initiative

Weekly Epidemiological Record. Progress in global measles control and mortality reduction 2000-2007


Global Measles Deaths Drop by 74%. Press Release 4th December 2008

WHO/UNICEF Global plan for reducing measles mortality 2006-2010