The Measles Initiative has announced that between 2000 and 2007 measles deaths fell from 750,000 to 197,000, or 74 percent, worldwide, and from 96,000 to 10,000, or 90 percent, in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
The decline represents a significant step toward achieving the UN goal to reduce measles deaths worldwide by 90 percent by 2010. Launched in 2001 by the American Red Cross, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Foundation, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization, the Measles Initiative works to achieve that goal by 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 the disease.
The African region was the largest contributor to the global decline in measles deaths, accounting for about 63 percent of the reduction, while progress in Southeast Asia was limited, with only a 42 percent decline, due in part to the delayed implementation of large-scale vaccination campaigns in India, which accounts for two-thirds of global measles deaths. The initiative also noted that the significant decline in measles deaths in the Eastern Mediterranean region — which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan — was the result of intensified vaccination campaigns in several countries with hard-to-reach areas. In 2007, more than twice the number of children were immunized in the region through such campaigns than in 2006.
"The progress that has been made shows what can be achieved through measles vaccination campaigns, but much more needs to be done," said UNICEF executive director Ann M. Veneman. "It is a tragedy that measles still kills more than five hundred children a day when there is a safe, effective, and inexpensive vaccine to prevent the disease."