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Frequently Used Figures for Measles: 

Measles deaths have fallen by 60 per cent worldwide since 1999 – a major public health success. This exceeds the United Nations goal to halve measles deaths between 1999 and 2005 and is largely due to an unprecedented decline in measles deaths in the African region.

According to WHO data, global measles deaths fell from an estimated 873,000 deaths in 1999 to 345,000 in 2005.  In Africa, the progress was even greater, with measles deaths falling by 75 per cent, from an estimated 506,000 to 126,000.

A strategy to reduce measles mortality, consisting of four components, has been key to ensuring the massive global decrease in measles deaths. The strategy calls for the provision of one dose of measles vaccine for all infants via routine health services; a second opportunity for measles immunization for all children, generally through mass vaccination campaigns; effective surveillance for measles; and enhanced care, including the provision of supplemental vitamin A.

Of the estimated 345,000 measles deaths in 2005, 90 per cent were among children under the age of five – many dying as a result of complications related to severe diarrhoea, pneumonia and encephalitis

Measles Mortality Reduction Strategy – Frequently Used Figures

A key factor contributing to progress in reducing measles deaths has been the strong support of the Measles Initiative, launched in 2001. The Measles Initiative is spearheaded by the American Red Cross, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Foundation, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).  

UNICEF and WHO have concentrated measles mortality reduction activities in 47 countries that account for about 98% of global measles deaths, working primarily to improve routine immunization as well as providing treatment to children with measles and strengthening disease surveillance. Supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) have also proven to be especially effective.

All children in developing countries diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements given 24 hours apart. Giving vitamin A at the time of diagnosis can help prevent eye damage and blindness. Moreover, vitamin A supplementation has been shown to reduce the number of deaths from measles by 50%.

The suffering and death caused by measles can be easily prevented through immunization. The measles vaccine is safe, effective and inexpensive It costs less than one US dollar (consisting of cost of vaccine, injection equipment and operational costs) to immunize a child against measles, making measles vaccination one of the most cost-effective public health interventions available for preventing deaths 

Measles immunization carries the highest health return for the money spent saving more lives per unit cost. The vaccine, which has been available for more than 40 years,costs about US $0.30 per dose ($0.15 for the vaccine itself and $0.15 for the safe injection equipment) if procured through UNICEF.

Updated: April 2007