American Red Cross President and CEO to Present Circle of Humanitarians Award to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for Support of Measles Vaccination Campaigns

WASHINGTON D.C. and SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (February 3, 2005) – American Red Cross President and CEO Marsha J. Evans will meet with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 4, 2005 to accept a $1 million donation on behalf of the Measles Initiative, a partnership to vaccinate 200 million children in Africa saving 1.2 million lives.

This contribution is the second-part of a 3-year commitment from the Church, as a primary supporter of the initiative, to provide $3 million to help prevent measles deaths in Africa. During her visit, Evans will present the Church with the organization’s highest financial support honor, the American Red Cross Circle of Humanitarians award. Also, the organizations will sign a Statement of Understanding.

“Measles has been eliminated in this part of the world because of routine childhood immunization,” said Evans. “The Measles Initiative is eliminating the disease in Africa, having vaccinated more than 140 million children so far, saving 300,000 lives. Thanks to donations from the public and generous philanthropic supporters, like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the American Red Cross is saving lives through this crucial public health initiative.”

Every year, nearly 700,000 children die from measles around the world, and nearly half of those children live in Africa. Tragically, although it costs less than $1 per child to vaccinate, the disease remains the world’s leading vaccine-preventable childhood killer.

In an effort to eliminate measles in Africa, the American Red Cross teamed up with the United Nations Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and launched the Measles Initiative, a bold, five-year commitment to vaccinate 200 million children and prevent 1.2 million deaths from measles in Africa.

“We are pleased to continue our long association with the American Red Cross. Providing comfort and relief to those who suffer is one of the fundamental tenets of our Church. Generous donations from members and friends of the Church make it possible for us to support lifesaving Red Cross programs like the measles initiative,” said Bishop H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the Church.

Countries in Africa adopting mass measles vaccination campaigns require intensive social mobilization efforts to encourage mothers and caretakers to bring their children to be immunized. Red Cross workers and recruited volunteers in the communities having campaigns will lead these efforts, which can include putting on plays, hanging posters and banners and home visits by volunteers to assure the population is educated about measles and aware of and motivated to participate in the vaccination program. The Church has encouraged participation of members of its Women’s Relief Society as volunteers in and has provided use of facilities for social mobilization elements of the campaign.

Since 1986, the Church has partnered with the American Red Cross by supporting relief efforts and initiatives – both domestically and internationally.  The Church, a long-time supporter of the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, supported the American Red Cross with both financial contributions and gifts-in-kind during its hurricane relief operations throughout August, September and October of last year.  In addition to their cash contribution, the Church provided trained disaster mental health care workers to provide counseling to disaster victims and approximately 100,000 hygiene kits containing items like toothbrushes and toothpaste for distribution to disaster victims.  

The Church also has been actively involved in the recent regional disaster relief operations including contributing financial support for winter storm and flooding disasters in St. George, Utah, and Littlefield, Nev., as well as providing disaster relief supplies, space for shelters and volunteers.

About the Measles Initiative

Launched in February 2001, the Measles Initiative is a long-term commitment to control measles deaths in Africa by vaccinating 200 million children and preventing 1.2 million deaths over five years. Leading this effort is the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Other key players in the fight against measles include the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and countries and governments affected by measles. While the Measles Initiative is focused in Africa where the majority of measles-related deaths occur, partners also work on a wide-range of health initiatives around the world, including measles control and other vaccination services outside of Africa.

You can help eliminate measles-related deaths in Africa by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross for the Measles Initiative. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Measles Initiative may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, International Services – Measles Initiative, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.