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Of One Heart: A formula for success

August 2010

measles-immunization Five teenage girls react bravely following their measles immunizations. They were among the 1,500 girls who were immunized in one morning at Casa Centrale, an all-girls school in Guatemala City. Nationwide, 7.2 million received the life-saving treatment.


I remember my parents watching anxiously as I struggled to recover from the dreaded illness of measles when I just 9 years old. It’s a serious disease and used to be responsible for up to 500 deaths annually in the United States. That all changed, however, when the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1963.

Today, thanks to humanitarian efforts, the incidence of measles worldwide has also been reduced by nearly 80 percent just in this past decade. Related deaths have fallen from an estimated 733,000 in 2000 to 164,000 in 2008.

Why? Nearly 700 million children have been immunized through large-scale campaigns in at-risk populations. An estimated 4.3 million measles deaths have been prevented.

For six years, LDS Charities, operating primarily on funds donated by church members, has participating in this work. My very first documentary assignment was to Guatemala, where LDS Charities was the second largest contributor in a campaign to vaccinate 7 million people — 44 percent of that country’s population!

In addition to providing serum for vaccinations, LDS Charities provided 20,000 member volunteers to go door-to-door promoting the free vaccines. Church members also helped to create and to air radio messages about the service.

During this time, I heard about a child who was born blind, deaf, and mute. Because he was physically and mentally handicapped, the boy’s family abandoned him. The child ended up in an orphanage, all due to his mother’s very preventable case of measles. Hopefully such stories are rare and will soon become history.

While most deaths from measles occur in developing countries, be aware — the disease is making a comeback. And the surge is happening not just in vulnerable Africa and Asia, but in America as well.

Two generations of American children have been raised without suffering the life-threatening effects of measles. As a result, many people in the third generation don’t bother to vaccinate themselves and their children. They face an increased risk of measles and severe complications such as pneumonia, diarrhea and encephalitis.

The need to protect against measles continues on every front.

As I work with LDS Charities, I am impressed by how much it accomplishes with each and every donation. For example, it costs just one dollar for each measles vaccination, and LDS Charities has bought millions with your donated funds. You deserve a lot of thanks. It couldn’t happen without your help.

Add to this the relatively large, rapidly mobilized base of LDS Church members, and you have a high-impact, low-cost formula for success. And that’s what humanitarian work is all about — doing our best to make the world a healthier, happier place for us all.

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