UNICEF and WHO say COVID-19 disrupted vital vaccination campaigns for several other diseases, creating a ‘perfect storm’.
Worldwide measles cases have increased nearly 80 percent this year, the United Nations said on Wednesday, adding that the rise in measles cases was a warning of a possible outbreak of other diseases.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement that the coronavirus pandemic disrupted vaccination campaigns for many diseases around the world, triggering a “perfect storm” that is now affecting millions of children. could put his life in danger. ,
“There were approximately 17,338 measles cases reported worldwide in January and February 2022, compared to 9,665 during the first two months of 2021,” UN agencies said.
Agencies are now concerned that an outbreak of measles “could warn of an outbreak of other diseases that do not spread as rapidly”.
In the past 12 months to this month there have been 21 large and disruptive measles outbreaks, most of them in Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, data from the United Nations show.
Somalia reported the most cases of measles in the past 12 months, with more than 9,000 cases, UN data showed, followed by Yemen, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia – all countries facing some form of conflict. are.
There are also fears that the war in Ukraine could lead to a resurgence of the disease in the country, which recorded the highest rate of measles in Europe between 2017 and 2019.
Impact ‘felt for decades’
More than 23 million children missed routine vaccinations in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic spread – the largest number of children who missed vaccinations in more than a decade.
UN agencies said 57 vaccination campaigns in 43 countries were postponed at the start of the pandemic and are still not completed, affecting 203 million people, most of them children.
The pandemic is placing pressure on healthcare facilities and staff, diverting attention away from vital vaccinations for long-standing and deadly diseases.
“Now is the time to get essential vaccinations back on track and start a catch-up campaign so that everyone can have access to these life-saving vaccines,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.
He said the disruption to vaccination services would be felt for decades to come.
Measles is a disease caused by a virus that mainly attacks children. The most serious complications include blindness, swelling of the brain, diarrhea, and severe respiratory infections.
At least 95 percent vaccination is the best way to prevent the spread of the disease, although many countries fall far short of that goal.
According to UN figures, Somalia is just 46 percent vaccinated.