© UNICEF/NYHQ2006-2239/Pirozzi
A child is immunized against measles at a mobile health clinic in Mozambique.

The situation

Measles remains an important cause of child mortality in Eastern and Southern Africa. It is one of the most contagious diseases known and almost all non-immune children contract this respiratory disease if exposed to the virus.

Some 50,000 children were affected by a measles outbreak in 2009/2010 in Southern Africa and more than 700 children died. The outbreak came as a result of gaps in the implementation of the control strategies which were caused by inadequate funding.

In order to ensure protection from outbreaks, at least 90 percent of all children in each district and at national level need to be vaccinated through routine immunization. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended to ensure immunity, since about 15 percent of children vaccinated at 9 months, fail to develop immunity from the first dose.


Thanks to massive immunization efforts by the Measles Initiative, child mortality due to measles was reduced by 92 percent between 2000 and 2008 in Africa. The gains achieved in Africa contributed a strong decline in global measles deaths by 78 percent during the same period.

The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. It was launched in 2001, and is led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).



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