Measles deaths worldwide decreased from nearly 6 million in the early 1960’s before the measles vaccine was licensed to 1.9 million in 1987. In 1999, measles claimed the lives of 873,000 worldwide. It was realized that the mortality rate could be significantly reduced by targeting 47 countries including 31 in Africa.
In 2001, the Measles Initiative, a partnership including the American Red Cross, the United Nations World Health Organization, UNICEF, the UN Foundation, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began with the goal of reducing worldwide mortality from measles by 90% from its 1999 level by 2010.
In January 2007, it was reported that 360 million children and youth were vaccinated in target countries between 2001 and 2005 resulting in a 60% decrease in the world measles mortality rate. Deaths decreased from 873,000 in 1999 to 345,000 in 2005. The cost per vaccination was 83 cents.
In 2003, the Church joined the Measles Initiative and has committed one million dollars each year in support of the campaign. The Church has also participated in the social mobilization effort that is significant to the success of each campaign. A catchy musical jingle, composed by a young Church member during the Church’s participation in the Madagascar measles campaign, has been translated and sung in 28 languages on dozens of radio stations in subsequent campaigns.
From 2004 to 2009, 62,503 Church members in 35 countries volunteered their efforts in canvassing neighborhoods and helping at vaccination posts
In 2009, the Church participated in measles vaccination campaigns in Botswana, Cape Verde, Kenya, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, and Uganda.