In Laos, the country which has one of the highest child mortality rate in Southeast Asia, increasing immunization coverage against measles has proved a huge challenge, with rates having lagged behind national and regional targets for many years. A primary reason for this has been the lack of the reliable, long-term source of funding necessary to guarantee a steady vaccine supply and to support health outreach activities, which is common in developing countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America—and this is the problem that the 10-year Takeda Global CSR Program is helping address through partnership with the UN Foundation for children around the world.
Photos by United Nations Foundation.
In a country where the majority of the population lives in rural areas, and where 49 ethnicities with over 200 dialects live in some 9,000 villages, communication plays a vital role in public health campaigns designed to prevent infectious diseases, such as measles.
Country vaccinators face the "rice paddy problem," a challenge that characterizes Laos with its rich and diverse culture and customs. When making routine visits to villages, community health workers will sometimes find no babies to vaccinate as they have been taken to the rice fields with their parents. This can then lead to the vaccines, which are heat-sensitive and have a limited lifespan, being wasted. The coordinators and local community health workers stress the need for regular contact with villagers to educate them on the importance of vaccinations and to ensure that they know when immunization sessions are being held.
The immunization of both mothers and children against infectious diseases is one of the safest, most cost-effective, high-impact intervention methods for reducing morbidity and mortality. Measles is still responsible for the death of nearly 90,000 children globally each year. Takeda has partnered with the United Nations Foundation to help achieve the goal of ensuring that children around the world have access to measles vaccines, in conjunction with the continuous efforts and strong commitment of public authorities, civil society, parents, and development partners.
With a focus on disease prevention for better health in developing and emerging countries, Takeda’s Global CSR Programs, launched in 2016, are 5 to 10-year commitments, with each program selected through employee votes. To help increase awareness and understanding of the big health challenges being tackled, Takeda's Employee Participation Program (EPP) enables employees to experience the transformational impact of the company's contributions firsthand – in this case the Takeda-United Nations Foundation partnership, a program which aims to vaccinate 5.4 million children against measles in approximately 40 developing countries worldwide.
On February 26, 2018, ten Takeda employees landed in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The group spent the next few days seeing the UN Foundation program in action, visiting rural health clinics and vaccine storage facilities, and hearing firsthand accounts of the program's impact from government officials, local health workers, community members and villagers, as well as UN Foundation coordinators.
Seeing the effort that went into implementing a successful measles immunization program, Takeda employees shared how much they were moved by the dedication and passion of the local partners who work tirelessly to deliver vaccines to children. The experience changed their perspectives and reinvigorated them by seeing firsthand the impact that vaccines can have on people, communities, and the entire country, how successful campaigns can be, and how critical partnerships are. They left inspired and reassured that through the work they do, lives were being saved and changed for the better.
On returning from Laos, Toshio Tamamuro, Head of Takeda CSR, said "Takeda's partnership with the United Nations Foundation creates tangible impact by saving millions of children from measles. I look forward to seeing our 10 learning trip participants become ambassadors, sharing their experiences with many others." He concluded that their engagement, together with partners around the world, strengthens Takeda CSR's efforts to advance critical global health initiatives.
Martha Rebour, Executive Director, Shot@Life campaign, United Nations Foundation
Takeda’s multi-year commitment enables planning for large-scale programs and thus creates significant impact throughout the lives of immunized children. The partnership is not only about preventing disease; it is about seeing older children laughing, smiling, and looking healthy.