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Spike in measles deaths among children troubling, UNICEF says

NEW YORK/GENEVA, 13 November 2014 – UNICEF today expressed alarm at new data showing that the number of child deaths from measles jumped from an estimated 122,000 in 2012 to 145,700 in 2013.

The latest figures, published in this week’s CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Report, shows that although an estimated 15.6 million deaths have been prevented by measles vaccination between 2000 and 2013, progress has stalled and previous gains are being reversed.

“This is very worrying, because if current trends continue, more children will suffer the effects of this highly dangerous, extremely contagious, but easily preventable disease,” said Jos Vandelaer, head of UNICEF’s immunization programmes. "Measles is affecting the poorest children, from families for which seeking treatment can have a devastating impact on household income.”

Only 84 per cent of the world’s children received their first dose of measles vaccine in 2013, leaving 21.5 million children vulnerable to this highly contagious disease. Three out of every five children not vaccinated live in just six countries – India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – where vaccination coverage for measles and other diseases remains patchy and inconsistent.

Failure to vaccinate against measles leaves children at risk of serious health complications including pneumonia, diarrhoea, brain damage, blindness and death. Vaccination, which is cheap and easily administered, has been proven as one of the best investments a country can make in its children.

Since 2000, some 1.7 billion children have received measles vaccination through mass measles vaccination campaigns with support from UNICEF. UNICEF is a founding member of the Measles & Rubella Initiative, launched in 2001 with the American Red Cross, the UN Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
“A number of global goals for measles elimination are now at risk,” Vandelaer added. “These trends should be taken seriously by those with the ability and the responsibility to reverse them.”

Global measles elimination goals can be found in the Measles & Rubella Initiative’s Strategic Plan.


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org.

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For further information please contact:

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