Worldwide Measles surge to 23-year high in 2019, killing over 200,000: UNICEF
Worldwide Measles surge to 23-year high in 2019, killing over 200,000: UNICEF

Deaths from the childhood disease measles last year increased 50 per cent from 2016 levels, with this year's coronavirus pandemic threatening another spike in cases by curtailing global vaccination programs, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned in a press release.

"Before there was a coronavirus crisis, the world was grappling with a measles crisis, and it has not gone away," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in the release on Thursday. "While health systems are strained by the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not allow our fight against one deadly disease to come at the expense of our fight against another." The release cited a recent report by the UN World Health Organisation, which tallied 207,500 deaths from measles in 2019, the highest toll in 23 years and a 50 per cent increase from 2016.

Although reported cases of measles are lower so far in 2020, efforts to control COVID-19 have resulted in disruptions in vaccination and crippled efforts to prevent and minimize measles outbreaks, the release said.

As of November, more than 94 million people were at risk of missing vaccines due to paused measles campaigns in 26 countries, many now experiencing ongoing outbreaks, the release added.

Of those countries, only eight - Brazil, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines and Somalia - resumed their vaccination campaigns after initial delays, according to the release.

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Free Press Journal