Health ministers pledge to eradicate measles

    By IANS,

    New Delhi : Health ministers of Southeast Asian countries Friday committed themselves to eliminating measles from the region by 2020.

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    Over 70,700 children died of measles in 11 southeast Asian countries in 2011. This constitutes about 45 percent of the global deaths due to the disease.

    The member nations committed to eliminating measles at the 66th session of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) regional committee for Southeast Asia here, held Sep 10-13.

    “An estimated eight million children are not protected against measles in WHO’s Southeast Asia region. Measles and rubella vaccines are safe, effective and inexpensive. The administration of a combined measles rubella vaccine can eliminate both diseases,” Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO regional director for Southeast Asia, said.

    “Measles outbreak is a major development obstacle. I believe with political will and a strong focus on the vulnerable and hard-to-reach population, we can eliminate measles and control rubella in the southeast Asia region by 2020,” he added.

    To reach the goal of measles elimination, governments will need to achieve and maintain 95 percent population immunity against these diseases within each district through routine immunisation and/or supplementary campaigns, WHO said in a release.

    WHO is urging partners to reinvigorate commitments and support governments by filling financial and technical gaps to achieve the target of eliminating measles.

    WHO’s southeast Asian region member countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.