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Success in fight against measles

by Tillmann Elliesen

The number of measles deaths in Africa has decreased by 91 % since 2000. This downturn was reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in late November. In 2006, only 36,000 people died of the disease in Africa; six years earlier, the total was 396,000. Worldwide, fatalities due to measles have dropped by 68 % since 2000 – from an estimated 757,000 to 242,000. By 2010, the United Nations targets a global reduction of 90 %. In 2000, the UN launched a global vaccination campaign in cooperation with partners in the international Measles Initiative. By 2006, 478 million children between the ages of nine months and 14 years were vaccinated in 46 countries where measles is particularly widespread. According to the WHO, more action needs to be taken in India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries. The region today accounts for three-quarters of global measles deaths. Seven years ago, the majority of fatalities occurred in Africa. Around the world, measles currently kills 600 children under five every day – a fact described by UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman as “an unacceptable reality when we have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine to prevent the disease”.