In 2019, measles cases surged worldwide to the highest numbers in 23 years, according to World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States.
The health bodies blamed falling rates of vaccination for the resurgence of the highly infectious and sometimes deadly disease.
Cases increased in all parts of the world to reach 869,770, the highest number since 1996, while deaths rose to an estimated 207,500. Global measles deaths have climbed nearly 50 percent since 2016, the report said.
Comparing data from 2019 with the historic low in reported measles cases in 2016, authors said the failure to vaccinate children on time with two doses of measles-containing vaccines was fuelling the disease.
“We know how to prevent measles outbreaks and deaths,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a joint statement with the CDC. “These data send a clear message that we are failing to protect children from measles in every region of the world.”
The warning on measles comes as the world struggles to contain the coronavirus that has so far affected more than 52.5 million people around the world and killed 1.3 million.
As of November, more than 94 million people in 26 countries were at risk of missing vaccines because measles campaigns had been suspended. Only eight countries have resumed their campaigns – Nepal, Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Philippines, Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil and the Central African Republic.
WHO and UNICEF issued an emergency call for action on measles and polio outbreak prevention and response on November 6.