International Youth Day 2020: Youth Engagement for Global Action

By Olivia Wyles, American Red Cross volunteer

August 12, 2020- Many deserve recognition right now for contributions they are making in their communities amidst current daily unpredictabilities. But on Aug. 12, we recognize all youth change makers, near and far. International Youth Day has been recognized by the United Nations since 1999, and this year’s theme is Youth Engagement for Global Action. Thanks to continuous advancements in technology, having a global voice for action is more possible than ever, and young people everywhere are taking advantage of it.

From volunteering their time with local organizations in high school and college, to attending rallies for causes they believe in, to using their social media accounts as a platform to spread messages about global issues,  young people today have a great desire to create social change both locally and globally. One issue that local youths have taken on in the past is called the “Measles Initiative” at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio.

“The Measles Initiative” at this school was inspired by the American Red Cross Measles and Rubella Initiative, which is able to use a $2 donation to save the life of a child by providing vaccinations all around the world. By 2017, the young group at Gilmour Academy had already raised $30,000 to provide thousands of children with vaccinations that would allow them to grow up to one day make their own marks on the world.

Measles & Rubella Immunization Campaign Kenya 2018

September 27, 2018. Nairobi, Kenya. Prince Osinachi receives a measles-rubella vaccine in Nairobi, Kenya. The Red Cross has educated me and my neighbors about the importance of our children receiving vaccinations. My son was 4 months late receiving one of his measles doses, so I was afraid of taking him to the health center but the volunteer convinced me to go, says Prince’s mother, Lydia Odinga. Lydia received a visit from Red Cross volunteer, Felista Njenga, who helps ensure kids in the dense urban community receive lifesaving vaccines such as those for measles and rubella. I volunteer because, as a mother, my desire is to have a healthier community free of diseases, says Felista. Local Red Cross volunteers go door-to-door to identify children who are missing routine immunizations, update vaccination records at local health centers, encourage parents and caregivers to have their children vaccinated, and follow up with families to confirm receipt of the recommended vaccinations. Each year in Kenya, more than 350,000 children miss their scheduled routine vaccinations leaving them vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and rubella. The American Red Cross and the Kenya Red Cross have been working together to strengthen community-level routine immunization systems in both rural and urban counties. Measles is one of the most contagious and severe childhood diseases. Every day, it takes the lives of hundreds of children around the world. Even if a child survives, measles can cause permanent disabilities, such as blindness or brain damage. But there is hope. Since 2001, the American Red Cross and our partners in the Measles & Rubella Initiative have vaccinated more than 2 billion children around the globe. The Red Cross plays a pivotal role in vaccination campaigns worldwide: local volunteers use mass media, rallies, door-to-door visits and educational entertainment to reach families who do not have access to routine health services.

Measles is one of the most contagious childhood diseases in the world. Measles was eliminated from the United States in 2000. However, it continues to kill hundreds of thousands worldwide per year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Accessibility to vaccinations is crucial, since even if a child survives after having the disease, they will most likely have permanent disabilities such as brain damage, hearing loss, deafness and more. Over 20.3 million lives have been saved thanks to measles vaccinations, and efforts like the “Measles Initiative” from Gilmour Academy students keep that number rising. The overwhelming majority of cases occur in children, and the students at Gilmour Academy have made a great impact as young change makers protecting their future fellow change makers from this deadly disease.

Mexico Earthquake Resiliency Program 2020

Worldwide cases of measles have decreased significantly over the years thanks to lifesaving and cost-effective vaccinations. If you’re interested in celebrating International Youth Day 2020 by donating to the Measles and Rubella Initiative to provide vaccinations to children around the world, click here for more information.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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