Measles deaths in Africa plummet by 91 per cent – UN
The Measles Initiative – comprising the UN Foundation, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN World Health Organization (WHO), the American Red Cross and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – also noted that Africa-led declines helped world measles deaths to fall 68 per cent – from 757,000 to 242,000 – during this period.
“This is a major public health success and a tribute to the commitment of countries in the African region,” said Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “We need to sustain this success and intensify our efforts in other parts of the world, as there are still far too many lives lost to this disease.”
The extraordinary successes in Africa are thanks to national governments' firm commitment to fully implement the measles reduction strategy, including vaccinating all children before their first birthday and providing a second opportunity to be vaccinated through mass campaigns, the Initiative said.
These campaigns have had a significant impact on reducing measles deaths worldwide. Between 2000 and 2006, some 478 million children between the ages of nine months and 14 years received the vaccine in campaigns in 46 of the 47 priority countries severely impacted by measles.
“The dramatic drop in measles deaths in Africa and the strong progress being made worldwide are a testament to the power of strong partnerships and the impact they can have on child survival,“ said Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF. “But measles is still killing nearly 600 children under five every day, an unacceptable reality when we have a safe, effective, and inexpensive vaccine to prevent the disease.”
Significant hurdles to reach the UN goal to cut measles deaths by 90 per cent in 2010 globally remain, with large countries such as India and Pakistan not yet fully implementing the proven control strategy. At present, nearly three-quarters of all measles deaths worldwide occur in South Asia.
The Initiative urged countries that have put accelerated measles control activities into action must maintain the momentum by continuing to conduct conducting follow-up vaccination activities every two to four years until their routine immunization systems are capable of providing measles vaccination to all children.
The data from the Initiative's findings will be published in the 30 November editions of WHO's “Weekly Epidemiological Record” and CDC's “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.”