In mid-July, Vaccinews posted a story about two boys a team from the non-profit organization PATH encountered in India.
The first boy, Satish, was 6 and had been blinded from the measles. The second boy, Narendra, was 1, and was being vaccinated against measles and receiving vitamin A during his village’s monthly immunization day.
This story struck a chord with Lions who saw it posted on the One Shot, One Life: Lions Measles Initiative Facebook page.
Although entirely preventable, measles continues to kill too many children in our world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 139,300 people died from the disease in 2010, mostly children younger than 5.
Measles complications are often common, and the most serious include brain swelling, severe diarrhea — and blindness, a cause near and dear to the hearts of Lions worldwide.
In 2004, WHO estimated that 100,000 children become blind each year following measles.
“The child, measles and the eye,” a document of WHO, explains that malnourished children are more susceptible to measles-related eye issues and blindness, especially if they are deficient in Vitamin A.
Vitamin A is essential for the eyes and other critical body parts.
“Children who have measles and already have low levels of Vitamin A in their liver reserves may get severe vitamin A deficiency,” the WHO document notes. “One way severe vitamin A deficiency damages the eye and threatens sight is by drying and causing ulceration of the cornea.”
The document points out that in most cases, severe corneal damage due to measles can be prevented if a child has better nutrition status before the disease strikes, if a vitamin A supplement is given early in the acute state of the measles infection and if medical treatment is sought immediately.
Of course, eliminating measles will also eliminate all blindness caused by measles.
By working with the Measles & Rubella Initiative and its founding partners, Lions will help save the lives of 157 million children this year — as well as save their sight.