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Weekly Prayers from CCOW

CCOW Weekly Prayers for April 19 - 25


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• World Immunization Week and World Meningitis Day (24 April)
• Fashion Revolution Day (24 April)
This week's Revised Common Lectionary readings illustrate the continuing journey of the disciples as they encounter the risen Messiah and begin to comprehend what His death and resurrection mean for themselves and the world. They hear and convey an astonishing message - that Jesus is the Author of life and is offering forgiveness to all people, even those who condemned Him to a cruel death. Have we heard and understood this message? And can we offer witness to it in our words and actions?
World Immunization Week
Heart-breaking pictures of parents losing children to malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases have become an established part of TV programmes raising money to tackle global poverty - and are a necessary reminder of the reality so many people in the world face.
But how do you communicate the flip side of the picture? How do you show the lives that have been saved thanks to prevention? It is not possible to say that any one particular child is now alive who would have died without a vaccine – perhaps making it harder to convey adequately the remarkable achievements that have been made in recent years to reduce preventable childhood deaths through immunization. And it truly is an extraordinary success story.

In his lecture ‘Impact of Childhood Vaccination: What’s Next?’ given to the Oxford Martin School of the University of Oxford in October 2014, Dr Matthew Snape, Consultant in Vaccinology and General Paediatrics at the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS trust and an Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Oxford, outlined some of the recent success stories of childhood vaccination. In the 1980s more than 2.5 million children were dying annually from measles. With the introduction of an effective vaccine that figure has declined dramatically – to 200,000 in 2012. It is estimated that 13.8 million deaths were prevented in the first 12 years of the new millennium. Similar results have been achieved for tetanus. Whereas in 1980 there were over 1 million neonatal deaths from tetanus, today the figure has gone down to 100,000 as uptake of the vaccine in pregnancy has increased. Such statistics exemplify why the GAVI Vaccine alliance can say ‘The evidence is clear: vaccines are one of the most cost-effective investments in health and development in history’.
April 24 – 30 is World Immunization week, an initiative of the World Health Organization, which provides an opportunity to celebrate success and focus on what still needs to be done. This year the week will focus on closing the immunization gap to reach the 1 in 5 children still missing out on life-saving vaccines. The WHO says, ‘Immunization… prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths every year… World Immunization Week 2015 will signal a renewed global, regional, and national effort to accelerate action to increase awareness and demand for immunization by communities, and improve vaccination delivery services.’
World Meningitis Day
Within World Immunization Week, World Meningitis Day falls on 24 April. Meningitis has a number of infectious causes, has global impact and is indiscriminate in its target. The Confederation of Meningitis Organisations says, ‘Every year more than 1.2 million people are affected by meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is the most severe and common form and it causes approximately 120,000 deaths globally each year. Even with prompt diagnosis and treatment, approximately 1 in 10 patients die and up to 1 in 5 sustain permanent damage and disability.’ Effective and safe vaccines are available to prevent the most common bacterial causes of meningitis. However, access to these vaccines is not universal – something that the partners behind World Meningitis Day are highlighting in this year’s activities and working to see changed.
That bacterial meningitis can be prevented is not in doubt: a vaccine to protect against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) was introduced in the 1990s; meningitis caused by the bacterium is hardly seen now where vaccination occurs. Another under-reported meningitis story demonstrates how endemic disease in a vast and challenging region can be successfully tackled when a range of players act together:

In Africa, Meningococcus A is the commonest cause of meningitis, causing massive seasonal outbreaks in the 25 countries that comprise the ‘meningitis belt’ of sub-Saharan Africa. Epidemic cycles have been reported for over a century, the largest occurring in 1996-7 when there were over 250,000 cases and 25,000 deaths.
This outbreak spurred African leaders to call for the development of a suitable vaccine that would eliminate the disease. MenAfriVac was designed and developed specifically for use in Africa – the first time his had happened - and was the result of collaboration between multiple organisations, including the Meningitis Vaccine Project, PATH, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Serum Institute, UNICEF and WHO, with the GAVI Alliance providing major funding for the programme.
Critically, the vaccine was produced at an affordable price – less than 50 cents per dose – achieved by technology transfer to enable its manufacture in a middle-income country, India. Since its launch in 2010, the vaccine has been given to more than 217 million people in 15 countries in the meningitis belt (with the remaining affected countries due to be covered this year and next) and has been shown to be extraordinarily successful (see also here). In his lecture, Dr Matthew Snape said, ‘The disease has gone away…. No person who has received this vaccine has developed meningitis A’. Such has been its success that the WHO says, ‘The use of the MenAfriVac® vaccine to prevent meningitis A epidemics is one of the greatest vaccination success stories in public health history and highlights what partners can accomplish when unified by a compelling cause’. 

As we mark World Immunization Week and World Meningitis Day, please pray:

• In thanksgiving for all the lives that have been saved and all the suffering avoided thanks to immunization.

• For the work of the GAVI Vaccine Alliance to make vaccines more readily available in poorer countries and in thanksgiving that the UK is a major funder of GAVI, providing 17.3% of its budget.

• For the success of the Global Vaccine Action Plan Global Vaccine Action Plan, an ambitious action plan to reach all people with the vaccines they need by 2020.

• For the on-going work to develop effectives vaccines for diseases such as malaria and ebola.

• For the dissemination of accurate information about the importance of immunization – and that people will not be affected by damaging misinformation campaigns.

Fashion Revolution Day (24 April)
Two years ago, on Wednesday, 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza Factory in Bangladesh collapsed. Thousands of workers had been labouring in the unsafe structure - despite the appearance of cracks that, by Tuesday, led a BRAC bank branch in the building to evacuate its employees and close the branch. Over 1,100 workers lost their lives. About 2,500 more were injured.
To honour them - and to prevent similar tragedies in the future - 24 April has been designated as Fashion Revolution Day. It's a day to ask the question "Who made my clothes?", to call for compensation for the Rana Plaza workers and their families, and to highlight efforts to ensure better conditions for garment workers in Bangladesh and around the world.
Compensation for the Rana Plaza victims should be a foregone conclusion. The Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund - which receives money from the Bangladesh Prime Minister's Fund, companies that bought from the Rana Plaza, factory owners and other private donors - was estimated to need only $30 million to provide necessary compensation to those injured and the families of those killed. Given the scale of the buyers alone, one would have assumed the figure could be reached quickly. But two years on, campaigners note that the Fund is still about $8.5 million short of its target; claimants have received at most 70% of what they are owed; and some major companies that bought clothes made in the Rana Plaza have as yet donated little or nothing.
In terms of prevention, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a "five year independent, legally binding agreement between global brands and retailers and trade unions," had conducted inspections of more than 1,450 factories through September 2014. Their reports are shared with factory owners, worker representatives and brands buying from that factory. Where inspections show flaws, the factory owners and brands develop a Corrective Action Plan that details what will be done to remedy the issues, as well as a financial plan to show how the remedial actions will be funded. In the most unsafe cases, Accord inspectors can require a factory to be evacuated and production to cease until actions have been taken. This occurred more than 35 times in 2014.
As with immunization, it's hard to know how many lives have been saved by the inspections, remediation actions, and evacuations - there are no figures for disasters averted. But it's heartening to see the transparency and apparent thorough nature of the inspections and the actions taken. That said, there are concerns, including the fact that not all brands have signed up to the Accord (check here to see which have) and an awareness that the system will not function well unless brands offer funding to assist factory owners in complying with the Accord inspectors' recommendations.
We, too, have a role to play - not only by asking brands whose clothing we buy "Who made my clothes?" on Fashion Revolution Day, but by consistently asking retailers about their ethical policies, refusing to buy from those who cannot answer adequately, and deliberately choosing clothing from companies that treat workers fairly.
As we mark Fashion Revolution Day, please act:
• by taking part in the Fashion Revolution Day campaign
• by joining in a Global Day of Action action calling on brands to contribute to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund
• by checking to see whether brands you know have signed up to the Accord and writing to them if they have not
• by considering your clothes purchases: can you commit to purchasing ethically produced clothing?
And please pray:
• for the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster and their families. Pray that they will get just compensation and that those who are injured and/or bereaved will experience healing.
• for the work of the Accord and other initiatives to promote safety in the Bangladeshi manufacturing sector. Give thanks for good work done and pray that all parties to the Accord will collaborate well to ensure that the work is successful. Pray, too, that more companies will sign up to the Accord.
• For garment workers worldwide. Pray that they will receive fair payment for their work and will enjoy safe working conditions. Pray for wisdom and discernment for those who represent them in business negotiations and for safety for those among them who speak out against injustice.
• For all who are working to make supply chains sustainable and just. Pray that they will succeed.
• For consumers around the world. Pray that we will seek to understand the ethical consequences of choices that we make - and will seek to make choices that improve life for other people, the planet, and ourselves.

CCOW Year Planner for Churches - 2015

Do you have expertise in any of the areas touched on in this week's prayers ? If so, we'd love to hear from you with comments, thoughts or suggestions! Please do email us.