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Sunday 27th May 2018

African measles deaths plummet

3rd December 2007

The number of people dying of measles in African countries has fallen dramatically in recent years, thanks to a strong commitment to vaccination programmes for children, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.


Measles deaths in Africa fell by 91% between 2000 and 2006, from an estimated 396,000 to just 36,000 during the six-year period, reaching the United Nations 2010 goal to cut measles deaths by 90% four years early.

The falls also improved global statistics for measles deaths, which fell by 68% during the same period.

WHO, who partners with other UN and national health bodies under the umbrella of the Measles Initiative, said the success of the programme was due to government commitment to child vaccination programmes.

Director-General Margaret Chan called the result "a major public health success", calling for intensified efforts in other parts of the world to bring the death toll down still further.

According to WHO, an estimated 478 million children aged nine months to 14 years received measles vaccine through campaigns in 46 out of the 47 priority countries severely affected by the disease between 2001 and 2006.

In 2006, global routine measles vaccination coverage reached an estimated 80% for the first time, up from 72% in 2000. The largest improvements in vaccination coverage were in the African and the Eastern Mediterranean regions, it said in a statement carried on its website.

Now the focus is likely to move to South Asia, where large countries with high numbers of measles deaths, such as India and Pakistan, need to fully implement the proven control strategy. Currently, about 74% of measles deaths globally occur in this region.

Measles priority countries must also continue to conduct follow-up vaccination activities every two to four years until their routine immunisation systems are capable of providing measles vaccination to all children, according to WHO and Measles Initiative guidelines.

Health workers have spent years going door-to-door informing, educating and motivating mothers and caregivers about the need to vaccinate their children.

Without such face-to-face tactics, the target would never have been reached.

Since its launch in 2001, the Measles Initiative has supported vaccination efforts in over 50 countries and mobilised more than US$470 million with help from partners such as the GAVI Alliance, the WHO statement said.


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