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WHA Endorses Interim Targets To Eradicate Measles As WHO Warns Disease On The Rise

“Measles is making a rapid comeback in African, Asian and even some European countries despite being easily avoided through vaccination, the World Health Organization said Friday as countries pledged to sharply cut infections and deaths worldwide by 2015,” the Associated Press reports (Jordans, 5/22). On the final day of the 63rd Annual World Health Assembly, the assembly endorsed a series of interim targets towards the global eradication of measles, VOA News reports.

“These targets are set for 2015 and are to achieve at least 90 percent measles vaccination coverage nationally and 80 percent coverage in every district, reduce measles cases to less than five per million population, reduce measles mortality by 95 percent compared to 2000 levels,” said Peter Strebel, medical officer in WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals (Schlein, 5/21).

During assembly discussions surrounding the measles targets, delegates “highlighted challenges that needed to be overcome to achieve the 2015 targets,” including “competing public health priorities, weak immunization systems, sustaining high routine vaccination coverage and plugging the $298 million funding gap for global anti-measles efforts,” U.N. News Centre writes. Additional challenges include “[e]nsuring children in hard-to reach populations received vaccinations and addressing an increasing number of measles outbreaks particularly in cross-border areas,” the news service writes (5/21).

According to the WHO, “measles deaths among young children fell to 118,000 in 2008, compared with 1.1 million in 2000,” the AP continues. However, “the number of cases has surged over the past year, with large outbreaks reported in 30 African countries – from Mauritania to Zambia and Angola to Ethiopia — and Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Bulgaria” (5/22).

“[T]he WHO warned that a lack of funding and political commitment could result in a return to more than 500,000 cases measles deaths per year by 2012,” Reuters reports. “It costs less than $1 to vaccinate a child against measles but two doses are required for full protection,” according to the news service (Nebehay, 5/21).

Media Outlets Report On Additional Resolutions Passed During WHA

This Day/allAfrica.com reports on WHA attendees’ concerns over the progress sub-Saharan African countries are making towards Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As part of a resolution aimed at monitoring achievement of the health-related MDGs, WHA delegates “noted that MDGs 4 and 5 were lagging behind and agreed to strengthen national health systems as well as take into account health equity in all national policies,” the news service writes (Nwezeh, 5/24).

Additionally, WHA member states “reaffirmed the value of primary health care and renewed their commitment to prevent and eliminate maternal, newborn and child mortality and morbidity,” according to a WHO press release. The press release highlights additional resolutions adopted during the WHA (5/21).

“Health ministers sealed a rare global accord Friday to avoid recruiting doctors and nurses from poor countries where there is an acute shortage of medical staff,” Reuters reports. “The voluntary code for World Health Organization members is only the second such accord in its history and follows six years of negotiations aimed at stemming the exodus of health care workers from around 60 of the world’s poorest countries,” according to the news service. According to the WHO, an estimated “57 countries, 36 of them in Africa and the rest mainly in southeast Asia, lack skilled health workers,” Reuters writes.

The article notes that the pact, which has been “under negotiation since 2004,” has received strong backing from the U.S. “‘We recognize the critical shortage of trained health professionals in the world’s poorest countries … and are committed to addressing that need,’ said Nils Daulaire, director of global health affairs at” HHS, the news service writes. The article includes remarks made by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan on the agreement as well as comments by Jean-Marc Braichet of WHO’s human resources for health department (Nebehay, 5/21).

Also at the WHA Friday, the WHO “approved a three-year plan to eradicate polio on Friday, bringing a two-decade battle to a critical juncture as funding falls short and the disease is on a surprising upturn,” the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the newspaper, the plan “calls for spending $2.6 billion over the next three years on running polio vaccination programs that will focus on Nigeria, India and several other countries world-wide where polio remains most deeply rooted.”

WHA member states also adopted a resolution targeting the treatment and prevention of pneumonia, the newspaper notes. “It called for programs to limit the disease by encouraging breastfeeding and promoting hand washing and vaccinations. The resolution comes as health groups are introducing a new vaccine for preventing Pneumococcal disease, which causes pneumonia,” according to the Wall Street Journal (Guth, 5/24)

FoxNews.com reports that delegates at the WHA failed to reach an agreement on a global consumer tax that aimed “to marry ‘innovative financing’ for global public health with a radically reorganized research, development, production and distribution of medicines around the world, putting greater emphasis on drugs for communicable diseases in poor countries. … Instead, they agreed to create a new ‘consultative expert working group’ to examine all the issues involved one more time, and report back to the next World Health Assembly in two years’ time.” The article details the efforts of an expert working group who proposed the strategy and highlights several countries in favor and opposed to the plan (Russell, 5/21).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.