Red Cross calls for aid in fighting measles outbreak

The American Red Cross, in the wake of the massive measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recently requested the aid of the global health community to quell the spread of the disease.  

A total of 16,112 suspected cases of measles have been reported in the African country since early 2011, including 106 children who died from the disease.

This massive outbreak continues the recent global increase of reported measles cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more measles cases were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, with more than 90 percent of those infected either not vaccinated or with an unknown vaccination status.

Victim of years of internal conflict, The Democratic Republic of Congo has left thousands of children vulnerable to the disease by not regularly participating in measles vaccination campaigns.

"If campaigns are postponed because of funding shortfalls, armed conflict or lack of political commitment, we will see outbreaks. It's predictable but it's also altogether preventable," Athalia Christie, a senior technical advisor for the Measles Initiative with the American Red Cross, said.

Through the Measles Initiative, the American Red Cross, in conjunction with the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization have contributed to a 92 percent reduction of measles mortality in Africa between 2000 and 2008.  

The Red Cross is hopeful that this initiative, along with assistance from the Democratic Republic of Congo, will put an end to this outbreak plaguing sub-Saharan Africa.