IFFIm's US$ 139 million support to The Measles Initiative, a partnership between global health and development agencies, is strengthening measles campaigns worldwide
Measles, which long-ago was sidelined as a major threat in the developed world, has been continuing to take a deathly toll in many developing nations.
It often strikes Africa, which has seen significant outbreaks in recent years, including nearly 47,000 cases in 2010 that left 731 dead.
Such loss of life is entirely preventable, yet the measles vaccine until recently was not administered routinely in western and southern Africa. The GAVI Alliance and its partner organisations in the Measles Inititiative have been changing that, with significant funding from IFFIm.
Consider Liberia. In early 2011, the remote town of Zoeluapa was without electricity, sanitation and or even a health clinic. The town of 4,000 also was battling a horrendous measles outbreak, reporting five deaths from the highly infectious disease.
Doris, 10, and her sister Rhoda, 13, had it, too. "They had fever, runny eyes and sore mouths," said their mother, Dorothy Okko. She needed no convincing to take her other children to a mud and wattle hut where an emergency measles vaccination campaign was in full swing.
This programme has achieved incredible results. In short it's resulted in about 1,500 less children dying every day from measles worldwide.
Edward Hoekstra, chief of the measles programme at UNICEF
That campaign, set-up by UNICEF - one of GAVI's strategic in-country partners - was critical in containing the outbreak, which could have quickly spread not only through Liberia but to neighboring countries as well. "There are 14 children in this household, and I need help to stop them from getting sick," said Ms. Okko. "This vaccine is a blessing."
The measles vacccination campaign was rolled out by 80 teams of health workers targetting all children between 6 months and 16 years old in Nimba County, as well as handing out supplements to help prevent deaths related to measles from complications such as pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Viral respiratory infection
Measles is a viral respiratory infection that attacks the immune system.
The disease infects close to 30 million children each year and kills almost 350,000, usually from complications related to pneumonia, diarrhoea and malnutrition. Survivors of measles are often left with life-long disabilities, such as blindness, deafness or brain damage.
"These children are usually found in the most vulnerable, poorest areas in the world. Immunisation can protect millions of children against this deadly disease," said Edward Hoekstra, chief of the measles programme at UNICEF.
Other recent outbreaks have occurred in Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, where 400 people died of measles in May 2010.
Yet most deaths at the hands of measles are easily prevented through immunisation at a cost of less than US $1 per child.
The Measles Initiative - a collaboration of global health and development agencies, including GAVI - has vaccinated 686 million children and saved the lives of more than 4.3 million children since 1999.
IFFIm's contribution of US$ 139 million gave the intitiative a major boost at a critical time.
"This programme has achieved incredible results. In short it's resulted in about 1,500 less children dying every day from measles worldwide," said Hoekstra.