Ten countries account for more than 74 per cent of the total increase in measles between 2017 and 2018, according to UNICEF today. Ukraine (30,338), the Philippines (13,192) and Brazil (10,262)saw the largest increases in measles cases from 2017 to 2018.
Brazil reported no measles cases in 2017, 10,262 in 2018.
The UN agency says 98 countries reported more cases of measles in 2018 compared to 2017, eroding progress against this highly preventable, but potentially deadly disease.
“This is a wake up call. We have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine against a highly contagious disease – a vaccine that has saved almost a million lives every year over the last two decades,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director. “These cases haven’t happened overnight. Just as the serious outbreaks we are seeing today took hold in 2018, lack of action today will have disastrous consequences for children tomorrow.”
Poor health infrastructure, civil strife, low community awareness, complacency and vaccine hesitancy in some cases have led to these outbreaks in both developed and developing countries.
“Almost all of these cases are preventable, and yet children are getting infected even in places where there is simply no excuse,” said Fore. “Measles may be the disease, but, all too often, the real infection is misinformation, mistrust and complacency. We must do more to accurately inform every parent, to help us safely vaccinate every child.”
To fight measles, UNICEF is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, health care providers, and parents to do more to contain the disease by:
- Understanding that vaccines are safe and effective and can save a child’s life
- Vaccinating all children between the ages of six months to five years during outbreaks
- Training and equipping health workers so they can provide quality services
- Strengthening immunization programmes to deliver all life-saving vaccines