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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - June 9, 2003: WHO Measles Campaign - 2003-06-08

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The World Health Organization is asking nations for an extra two-hundred-million dollars to fight measles in developing countries. The request was made last month during a meeting of the one-hundred-ninety-two member World Health Assembly.

The W-H-O says that each year almost seven-hundred-fifty-thousand children die from measles. That is out of more than thirty million cases. Yet, it can be prevented with a vaccine medicine given early in life.

Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It attacks the skin surface and the body’s defense system. The disease can spread through liquid from the nose and throat of an infected person. People can also become sick by breathing infected particles in the air.

The W-H-O and the United Nations Children’s Fund say they plan to use the requested money over the next three years to fight measles in forty-five countries. Most are in Africa, where health officials say more than half of all deaths from measles happen. W-H-O officials say this new campaign could prevent more than two-million deaths in Africa alone over the next ten years.

Danny Tarantola (tah-RAHN-to-lah) is the director of vaccines at the World Health Organization. He says this campaign would offer children two chances to be vaccinated. The first would be at nine months of age. The vaccine would be given through the established health care system of each nation. The second chance would be three or four years later through additional vaccination programs. The W-H-O campaign would pay for the vaccine, safe injection materials, cooling equipment and trained workers to supervise vaccination programs.

The W-H-O says this campaign would help the United Nations reach two of its health goals. The first goal is to reduce by two-thirds the death rate of children under age five by two-thousand-ten. The second goal is to cut the number of measles deaths in half from nineteen-ninety-nine levels. Officials hope to do this within the next two years.

The W-H-O says that of all health interventions, measles vaccination carries one of the highest health returns for the money spent. The health agency says one amount of measles vaccine costs just twenty-five cents, one-quarter of an American dollar. And that includes safe injection equipment.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.