Global Measles Deaths Drop By 74%
Measles deaths worldwide fell by 74% between 2000 and 2007, from an estimated 750,000 to 197,000. In addition, the Eastern Mediterranean region which includes countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and the Sudan has cut measles deaths by a remarkable 90% -- from an estimated 96,000 to 10,000 -- during the same period, thus achieving the United Nations goal to reduce measles deaths by 90% by 2010, three years early.
The progress was announced today by the founding partners of the Measles Initiative: the American Red Cross, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation), UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). The data will be published in the 5 December edition of WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Record and CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
"This achievement is a tribute to the hard work and commitment of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region to combat measles," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "With only two years until the 2010 target date, I urge all countries affected by measles to intensify their efforts to immunize all children against the disease."
The significant decline in measles deaths in the Eastern Mediterranean region was the result of intensified vaccination campaigns including several countries with hard-to-reach areas. In 2007, more than twice the number of children were immunized in the region through such campaigns as compared to 2006.
"There are thousands of health workers and volunteers from our Red Cross and Red Crescent family who deserve much of the credit for this success. They give their time to literally go door-to-door informing, educating and motivating mothers and caregivers about the critical need to vaccinate their children," said Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, Chairman of the Board of the American Red Cross. "This mobilization helps us to consistently reach more than 90% of the vulnerable population and save countless lives."
The African region was the largest contributor to the global decline in measles deaths, accounting for about 63% of the reduction in deaths worldwide over the eight-year period. In 2007, measles outbreaks occurred in a number of African countries due to gaps in immunization coverage, reinforcing the need to continue immunization support.
"It's absolutely wonderful that so many children are off to a healthy start in life thanks to the progress we've made in combating measles through immunization," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC Director. "Other children's lives are still at risk, however, so it's time we refocus our attention on sustaining our immunization efforts in countries where rates are low."
The progress in South-East Asia has been limited -- with just a 42% decline in measles deaths. This is due to the delayed implementation of large-scale vaccination campaigns in India, which currently accounts for two thirds of global measles deaths. Political commitment in India is essential if the 2010 global goal is to be achieved.
"The progress that has been made shows what can be achieved through measles vaccination campaigns, but much more needs to be done," said Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF. "It is a tragedy that measles still kills more than 500 children a day when there is a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine to prevent the disease."
The world's success in reaching the 2010 measles goal depends on ensuring that all children receive two doses of measles vaccine including one dose by their first birthday, strengthening disease surveillance systems, and providing effective treatment for measles.
"Progress also depends on addressing the considerable funding gap," said Kathy Calvin, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the UN Foundation. "The shortfall stands at US $176 million for 2009-2010, of which US $35 million is urgently needed for 2009. With continued funding and increasing ownership and commitment of countries, we can sustain our progress and achieve our goal by 2010. We ask our supporters to stay with us and strongly encourage new supporters to join us in our effort to save lives."