Global measles death has fallen from an estimated 873,000 in 1999 to 345,000 in 2005, with Africa achieving 75 per cent reduction, according to the latest data by the World Health Organization (WHO).
A released signed by Allison Hickling, Communication Officer of UNICEF, Ghana, described the reduction as a major public health success, adding that it exceeds a United Nations' goal to halve the disease between 1999 and 2005.
Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, said with the collective efforts of world leaders, including the health community, the objective to halve measles death and save hundreds of thousands of lives had not only been achieved, but had also been surpassed in just six years with Africa leading the way.
"This is an historic victory for global public health, for the power of partnership and for commitment by countries to fight a terrible disease," she stated.
The release said the 75 percent reduction in measles deaths in Africa was due to the firm commitment and resources of national governments, and support from the Measles Initiative. Focussing on Ghana, the statement said measles had 93made a dramatic exit" in the country and hoped this accomplishment would be sustained.
Quoting UNICEF Ghana, the statement said there had been no reported case on measles death in the country since a successful national measles campaign in 2002.
It noted Ghana's routine measles immunization campaign to help ensure that the fatal childhood disease does not make a return, saying, the immunizations reach 83 per cent of Ghanaian children. In November 2006, The Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service led a massive integrated child health campaign which included the vaccination of some five million children against measles. The statement said the challenge now was to reach the new goal of reducing global measles deaths by 90 per cent by 2010.
"This means that gains made in countries that have implemented accelerated measles control strategies must be sustained, and similar strategies must be implemented in countries with high number of measles death such as India and Pakistan," the release added. The Measles Initiative is spearheaded by the American Red Cross, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, UN Foundation, UNICEF and WHO.
To date, the Initiative has mobilised more than 300 million dollars to provide technical and financial support to national campaigns.