World-wide measles deaths drop 40% over last five years

Saturday, March 5, 2005 The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nation's Children Fund (UNICEF) have released figures showing that world-wide, deaths from the disease measles have dropped by 40% over the last five years.

In 1999, 873,000 people died from disease, while that number fell to 530,000 in 2003 - a drop of 39%. The largest drop was seen in Africa - 46%.

Just ten years ago a million children a year died from the disease and another 30 million were affected, often being left with long-term disabilities such as brain damage and blindness.

WHO/UNICEF started a drive to cut measles deaths in 1999, with the aim of halving deaths by the end of 2005. Governments around the world began implementing their proposals.

The main aim was to achieve the vaccination of at least 90% of all children born (around 130 million a year). A second aim was to ensure that all children between nine months and 14 years old receive a second chance for immunization, either through routine health care or special initiatives. The special initiaves have proved especially effective, vaccinating 350 million children from 1999 to 2003.

An indirect benefit of the drop in measles cases has been the releasing of money previously used for measles treatment for other health care projects. For example, in Togo, 95% of children under five now receive vaccinations against measles and polio, mosquito nets to guard against malaria, and de-worming tablets.