Measles Deaths In Africa Plunge By 91%

Armen Hareyan's picture


Measles deaths in Africa fell by 91% between 2000 and 2006,from an estimated 396 000 to 36 000, reaching the United Nations 2010 goal tocut measles deaths by 90% four years early. The spectacular gains achieved inAfrica helped generate a strong decline in global measles deaths, which fell68% worldwide - from an estimated 757 000 to 242 000 - during this period.

The progress was announced today by the founding partners ofthe Measles Initiative: the American Red Cross, UNICEF, the United NationsFoundation, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)and WHO. The data will be published in the 30 November editions of WHO's WeeklyEpidemiological Record and CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"Thisis a major public health success and a tribute to the commitment of countriesin the African region," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "Weneed to sustain this success and intensify our efforts in other parts of theworld, as there are still far too many lives lost to this disease."

Commitment of national governments

Thesignificant decline in measles deaths in Africawas made possible by the firm commitment of national governments to fullyimplement the measles reduction strategy, which includes vaccinating allchildren against measles before their first birthday via routine healthservices and providing a second opportunity for measles vaccination throughmass vaccination campaigns.

"The clear message from this achievement is that thestrategy works," said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. "The nextstep is to fully implement this strategy in South Asia, where measles diseaseburden is now the highest in the world."

Mass vaccination campaigns have had a major impact onreducing global measles deaths. From 2000 to 2006, an estimated 478 millionchildren aged nine months to 14 years received measles vaccine throughcampaigns in 46 out of the 47 priority countries severely affected by thedisease.

In 2006, global routine measles vaccination coverage reachedan estimated 80% for the first time, up from 72% in 2000. The largestimprovements in vaccination coverage were in the African and the EasternMediterranean regions.

Power of strong partnerships

"Thedramatic drop in measles deaths in Africa and the strong progress being madeworldwide are a testament to the power of strong partnerships and the impactthey can have on child survival," said Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director ofUNICEF. "But measles is still killing nearly 600 children under fiveevery day, an unacceptable reality when we have a safe, effective, andinexpensive vaccine to prevent the disease."


Majorchallenges still need to be overcome to achieve the goal to cut global measlesdeaths by 90% in the period 2000-2010. Large countries with high numbersof measles deaths, such as India and Pakistan, need to fully implement theproven control strategy. Currently, about 74% of measles deaths globally occurin South Asia.

Inaddition, countries that have implemented accelerated measles controlactivities must sustain the gains that they have made. This means thatall measles priority countries must continue conducting follow-up vaccinationactivities every two to four years until their routine immunization systems arecapable of providing measles vaccination to all children.

Mobilization efforts are essential

"Through the tireless efforts of millions of health workersand volunteers from our Red Cross and Red Crescent family, as well as ourdedicated partners, such as the Latter-day Saints, we literally go door-to-doorinforming, educating and motivating mothers and caregivers about the criticalneed to vaccinate their children," said Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, Chairman of theBoard of the American Red Cross. "These mobilization efforts are essential forour success, helping us consistently reach more than 95 percent of thevulnerable population and saving countless lives."

A keyfactor contributing to progress in reducing measles deaths has been the strongsupport of the Measles Initiative and the GAVI Alliance. Since itslaunch in 2001, the Initiative has supported vaccination efforts in over 50countries and mobilized more than US$ 470 million with help from partners suchas the GAVI Alliance.

"Thesuccessful reduction of measles deaths would not be possible without thecollaborative work among many partners--including governments, the UnitedNations, NGOs, corporations and volunteers from local communities--each of whichbring unique strengths and resources that are essential for success," saidKathy Calvin, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, UnitedNations Foundation. "We commend our partners for coming together toprotect children around the world from measles."


The MeaslesInitiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launchedin 2001, the Initiative-- led by the American Red Cross, the United NationsFoundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United StatesDepartment of Health and Human Services, UNICEF and WHO--provides technical andfinancial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns.

Other keypartners in the fight against measles include the GAVI Alliance, theInternational Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the CanadianInternational Development Agency, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,Becton, Dickinson and Company, the Izumi Foundation, the Vodafone GroupFoundation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and countries andgovernments affected by measles.