Safeguarding a Nation: Lions Address Measles in Botswana

When Leganne Matlho’s eldest son fell sick at the age of 10 with a high temperature and “sores all over his body,” his mother did not at first realize how serious the situation could become.

She had heard of measles – children in her town in northern Botswana had died from it in the past. But for a day or two she waited before taking Titoga to a clinic, where doctors prescribed immediate treatment and told her that she had been lucky he had not deteriorated faster.

“I was so frightened that some illness he can catch without me knowing could have caused him to be blind, or even to die, very quickly,” Matlho says, sitting in the shade of her swept yard where tomatoes, kale and lettuce grow in neat lines in the sandy soil. “It was only after that I came to realize that there is a protection against this disease in the form of an injection, something Titoga did not get. Since that day that my son was sick, all of my children have been vaccinated.”

Leganne Matlho holds her 15-month-old daughter, Piwane

Leganne Matlho holds her 15-month-old daughter, Piwane

Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has committed to raising US$30 million for vaccinations by 2017, a sum that partners will match. The LCIF partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, focuses on support of routine immunization and strengthening health systems to help prevent serious outbreaks of disease. By 2020, more than 700 million children in 49 countries are expected to be immunized against measles and rubella thanks to Gavi and its partners, including Lions.

For this particular campaign in Botswana, LCIF helped fund 3,500 bright orange hats for campaign volunteers, 10,000 posters and 100,000 information flyers to be given out in schools and clinics, training workshops, and ID badges for those helping out on the actual vaccination days. Across the country, Lions helped to hire public address systems, truck trailers and even arrange motorcades of vehicles to take messages about the looming immunization drive directly to the people.

“Nowadays people do not know how dangerous the illness can be, because no one has seen it for so long,” she says. “I am one of the few, and I make sure that I tell everyone I see that they need to vaccinate their children. It is something easy to do, but it can mean the difference between life and death.”

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