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Dramatic Drop In African Measles Cases And Deaths

UN AND PARTNERS SEE DRAMATIC DROP IN AFRICAN MEASLES CASES AND DEATHS

New York, Nov 2 2005 6:00PM

More than 200 million children in Africa have been vaccinated against measles and both the cases and the resulting deaths have dropped by 60 per cent since 1999, saving more than a million lives, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

"This is a major public health achievement," WH O Director-General Dr. Lee Jong-wook said. "It is the result of the hard work and dedication of the governments of priority countries with high measles deaths and all our Measles Initiative partners to achieve a common goal – to reduce measles deaths. Let us continue to build on this momentum."

WHO and its partners in the Measles Initiative – the American Red Cross, Ted Turner's UN Foundation, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – are meeting this week in New York at the Time Magazine Global Health Summit.

Measles is one of the leading vaccine-preventable childhood killers in the world. In 2003, more than 500,000 people – 470,000 of them children younger than 5 – died from the disease, half of them in Africa alone, WHO said. A safe and highly effective vaccine has been available for over 40 years and it costs less than $1 to protect a child against the disease.

"Fighting measles is key to reducing child deaths," UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said. "By expanding this Initiative to reach more children and by using measles campaigns to deliver other lifesaving health services, we can save many more lives in the years ahead."

UN Foundation Chairman Ted Turner announced a $20 million commitment to the Measles Initiative over the next four years, bringing the UN Foundation's support to a total of more than $57 million since 2001. The Foundation began its work on global health with the polio eradication effort and then helped build the anti-measles collaboration based on that infrastructure.

Since 2001 the Measles Initiative has raised more than $144 million and supported over 40 African countries in mounting high-quality measles vaccination campaigns, during which every target-aged child in the community is vaccinated against the disease within a few days or weeks.

Its next steps include follow-up vaccination campaigns in Africa, expanding vaccination campaigns into Asia and continuing the successful "integrated child health campaigns" in which health workers provide not only measles vaccines, but also anti-malarial insecticide-treated bed-nets, vitamin A, de-worming medication and polio vaccines.

ENDS

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