The number of deaths from measles has been slashed in the world where it has fallen by 60% in six years. In 2005, almost 350,000 people died from this fever that causes spots, whereas the figure in 1999 was 873,000. A welcome result, obtained mainly due to the action of the Partnership against Measles.
Launched in 2001, this international alliance includes the WHO, UNICEF, the American Red Cross, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and the United Nations Foundation. Its goal is to support the efforts of governments to vaccinate over 360 million children against measles over ten years, particularly in Africa.
Halfway through this period, this goal appears to be well within reach. “The target set by the United Nations, to halve deaths caused by measles between 1999 and 2005, has been surpassed ”, states the WHO press release. This is particularly true in Africa where the drop in deaths was 75%! The Cameroon Minster of Health, U. Olanguena Awono, says “it’s a spectacular achievement”. In Togo, for instance, over 95% of children under the age of five have already been vaccinated.
But measles is still killing children, in very large numbers. Of the 345,000 deaths from measles recorded in 2005 throughout the world, 90% concerned children under the age of five. For the WHO “the challenge now is to reach a new target in global terms: to cut mortality caused by measles by 90% compared with the 2000 levels”.