A group of six Cal Poly political science students are capping off a week-long campaign of collecting donations today in order to provide vaccinations for the millions of children affected by the measles virus in Africa.
Begun on Oct. 21, the Measles Dollar Drive is headed by students from the POLS 325, global political issues class working in conjunction with Doctors Without Borders, a nonprofit, international humanitarian organization. They will have one last drive in the University Union Plaza to encourage students to donate as little as $1 – sufficient for one vaccine.
The measles virus, almost non-existent in the Western Hemisphere, thanks to safe and inexpensive vaccines, is still a major problem in developing countries. It affects more than 30 million children annually, killing more than half a million each year. In Africa, measles remains one of the leading causes of death among children, atop AIDS, tuberculosis and malnutrition, according to the World Health Organization.
“We’re very impressed with the project because donations go toward alleviating a serious epidemic in Africa,” said Erik Long, a political science professor and the project coordinator. “The drive is also impressive because of the financially low impact it has on the students who contribute – $1 is all it takes to vaccinate a child in Africa.”
According to Long, a donation of as little as $1 is enough to cover the cost of injection tools and all procedural costs for one child. In addition, the measles vaccine is often combined with other vaccinations, without losing effectiveness, to counter other serious viruses such as rubella and mumps.
However, even though the Measles Dollar Drive is asking for small contributions to provide a large impact against the spread of the virus, the students in charge of the drive say the turnout during the week has been somewhat disappointing.
During the Homecoming game, the students working the Measles Dollar Drive booth, outside of the Spanos Stadium entrance, said that student donations were low as many seemed skeptical of the drive.
“Things didn’t go as well as we had planned,” said Jenna Kelly, a modern language and literature senior and Measles Dollar Drive assistant. “Some students were afraid that the donations wouldn’t make much of a difference because they felt that too much money would go to something else such as administrative costs.”
However, Kelly said that the donations collected during the Measles Dollar Drive would benefit the Nobel Peace Prize winning Doctors Without Borders, which has one of the lowest administrative costs of any humanitarian organization, in their emergency measles vaccination campaign.
“It’s one of the aspects that made this project so appealing,” Long said. “Instead of the usual 20 percent that many organizations take out for every dollar donated, Doctors Without Borders only takes 2 percent, so every dollar donated truly has an impact.”
To learn more about the measles epidemic in Africa or to make a contribution, the Measles Dollar Drive will have a booth stationed in the UU Plaza today from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.