The United Nations said on Wednesday that measles cases have risen by nearly 80 percent worldwide this year, warning that the emergence of “canary in a coal mine” indicates the possibility of other outbreaks on the way.
The Corona Virus pandemic Vaccination campaigns against diseases other than COVID have been halted worldwide, causing a “perfect storm” that could put the lives of millions of children at risk, the United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) and ( World Health Organization He said in a statement.
More than 17,300 measles cases were reported globally in January and February, compared to about 9,600 during those months last year, according to new data from UN agencies.
The data showed there had been 21 large and devastating outbreaks of measles in the past 12 months to April, mostly in Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.
Christopher Gregory, chief health advisor for UNICEF’s Department of Immunization, told AFP that while measles is “the most vaccine-preventable infectious disease”, it often serves as a warning sign.
“Measles is what we call the tracer, or the canary in the coal mine, and that really shows us the weaknesses in the immunization system,” he said.
He said yellow fever It was among the diseases that could increase next, after a spike in cases reported in West Africa.
“We are particularly concerned about those more fragile countries, where health care systems are already struggling, as they are still trying to deal with the effects of COVID on top of these outbreaks,” he said.
UN data showed that Somalia had by far the highest number of measles cases in the past 12 months with more than 9,000 cases, followed by Yemen, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia – all countries battling some form of conflict.
There are also fears that the war in Ukraine could lead to a resurgence in the country after it recorded the highest measles infection rate in Europe between 2017 and 2019.
Gregory said it has been very difficult to trace any disease in Ukraine since the war began, adding that the biggest concern was “what we could lose”.
The effect has been felt for decades.
More than 23 million children did not receive routine vaccinations in 2020 as the COVID pandemic receded, the most in more than a decade.
UN agencies said 57 vaccination campaigns in 43 countries that were postponed at the start of the pandemic have not yet been completed, affecting 203 million people – most of them children.
COVID also continues to put pressure on health care facilities and draw staff and interest away from vaccination against long-lasting killer diseases.
“The impact of these disruptions to immunization services will continue to be felt for decades to come,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.
“Now is the time to get basic immunization back on track and launch catch-up campaigns so that everyone has access to these life-saving vaccines.”
Gregory said it was time to put childhood immunization “at least on the same level of priority as ending the COVID vaccine.”
Measles is a disease caused by a virus which mainly attack children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhea, and acute respiratory infections.
Uptake of vaccination by at least 95 percent is the best way to avoid its spread, even though many countries fall far short of this target — Somalia is at just 46 percent, according to United Nations data.