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Measles Initiative Supports Disease Prevention for Children in China's Earthquake Zone
Date:11/10/2008

Providing life-saving immunization in aftermath of earthquake

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Measles Initiative is supporting the government of the People's Republic of China in providing measles vaccines to more than 7.3 million children, implementing additional measles control activities and strengthening the delivery of routine immunization in the provinces of Chongqing, Gansu, Sha'anxi and Sichuan -- areas severely impacted by the 8.0 magnitude earthquake that struck six months ago.

"Given the scope of this disaster, which affected 46 million people, it is vital that we continue to protect children who have been made vulnerable to infectious diseases like measles," said David Meltzer, Senior Vice President of International Services for the American Red Cross. "By supporting these activities, we will ensure that millions of children receive life-saving vaccinations, while also helping to restore the health infrastructure in the affected region."

The devastating earthquake took the lives of more than 70,000 people, and left some 15 million homeless. It also destroyed buildings and infrastructure, including health and immunization facilities. The Initiative is helping restore and strengthen these health systems, including replacing immunization infrastructure, conducting trainings, supporting school-age vaccinations, expanding outreach to unimmunized children, and conducting disease surveillance and outbreak investigations.

The Measles Initiative is providing technical assistance and nearly $4 million in financial support for these activities including a vaccination campaign in Chongqing province where there continues to be a high incidence of measles. This campaign will protect the children of Chongqing and minimize the risk of introducing measles in Sichuan province, the area hardest hit by the quake.

"Because measles has a high potential for outbreaks, mass vaccination of children against the disease is often a high priority for populations following a natural disaster," said Dr Edward Hoekstra, UNICEF's Senior Health Specialist and Coordinator of UNICEF's Measles Program. "This is especially true for children who have been displaced and are living in crowded conditions."

Already the provinces of Sha'anxi and Sichuan have completed province-wide vaccination campaigns in 2007-08 as part of the country's commitment to eliminating measles in China by 2012.The Sichuan campaign was completed with support from the Measles Initiative just prior to the earthquake, and may have prevented outbreaks in the wake of the disaster. However, given the extent of damage following the earthquake, support for routine immunization services is critical.

The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launched in 2001, the Initiative -- led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization -- provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns worldwide. To date, the Initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 500 million children in more than 60 countries helping reduce measles deaths by more than 68% globally and 91% in Africa (compared to 2000). To learn more or make a donation, visit http://www.measlesinitiative.org.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Christy Feig, American Red Cross, Washington, DC, +1.202.303.5074; FeigC@usa.redcross.org

Casey Boudreau, CDC, Atlanta, +1 404 639 8404; znc5@cdc.gov

Amy DiElsi, UN Foundation, Washington, DC, +1 202 419 3230; adielsi@unfoundation.org

Christian Moen, UNICEF, New York, +1 212 326 7516; cmoen@unicef.or

Alison Brunier, WHO, Geneva, +41 22 791 4468; bruniera@who.int


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SOURCE American Red Cross
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