Measles is the one of the biggest single killers among the vaccine-preventable diseases, causing an estimated 530,000 deaths in 2003, with 395,000 of these in children under five: around 4 per cent of under-five deaths globally. But progress has been made in reducing the number of child lives lost to measles: There were an estimated 873,000 deaths from measles worldwide in 1999 (5). In short, the worldwide goal of reducing measles mortality by half between 1999 and 2005 is on track.
Much of this global success is due to supplementary activities: frequent, accelerated programmes and campaigns at the national level targeting children of a wide age range - up to 15 years old - and reaching out to marginalized groups, including children affected by emergencies. The Measles Initiative (6) has supported supplementary activities in priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.
Africa is on track to meet the goal. Measles deaths fell to 282,000 in 2003 from 519,000 in 1999, a 46 per cent reduction. National measles campaigns were key to this achievement, immunizing an additional 200 million children in 2001-2004 (7).