Measles Deaths on the Rise

When USAID Administrator Raj Shah told Congress yesterday that 70,000 children could needlessly die should Congress pass a restrictive global health budget, this is what he was talking about.

The World Health Organization is reporting today that Measles deaths are on the rise again in sub-Saharan Africa. The thing is, since the Measles Initiative was launched in 2001, the number of cases and deaths from Measles in Africa has dropped exponentially. Routine child and infant vaccinations in Africa caused measles cases to plummet from over 500,000 in 2001 to around 35,000 in 2008.  But the word today is that since 2008, there has been a four-fold increase in the number of Measles cases in Africa to about 170,000 confirmed cases by WHO in 2010.

A  WHO spokesperson attributes the reversal of gains to two reasons. First, paradoxically, is the success of the campaign since 2001; parents saw fewer measles cases around them and judged that the threat of measles was reduced.  Second, international funding for measles has declined since 2008.  Amidst a global economic crisis, donor governments reduced their spending on measles vaccination efforts and shifted to other global health priorities, said the WHO spokesperson.

Measles is a very opportunistic disease. So opportunistic, it would seem, that it has exploited the global financial crisis.