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WHO: Measles deaths worldwide fall by 74%
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Measles deaths worldwide fell by 74 percent between 2000 and 2007, from an estimated 750,000 to 197,000, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

In addition, the Eastern Mediterranean region has cut measles deaths from an estimated 96,000 to 10,000 during the same period, thus achieving the UN goal to reduce measles deaths by 90 percent by 2010 three years early, the agency said in a statement.

The WHO Eastern Mediterranean region comprises a total of 21 countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen etc..

"This achievement is a tribute to the hard work and commitment of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region to combat measles," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

"With only two years until the 2010 target date, I urge all countries affected by measles to intensify their efforts to immunize all children against the disease," she said.

According to the organization, the significant decline in measles deaths in the Eastern Mediterranean region was the result of intensified vaccination campaigns including several countries with hard-to-reach areas.

In 2007, more than twice the number of children were immunized in the region through such campaigns as compared to 2006.

Latest results show Africa was the largest contributor to the global decline in measles deaths, accounting for about 63 percent of the reduction in deaths worldwide over the eight-year period.

In 2007, however, measles outbreaks occurred in a number of African countries due to gaps in immunization coverage, reinforcing the need to continue immunization support.

The progress in South-East Asia has been limited -- with just a 42 percent decline in measles deaths.

This is due to the delayed implementation of large-scale vaccination campaigns in India, which currently accounts for two thirds of global measles deaths, WHO said.

Political commitment in India is essential if the 2010 global goal is to be achieved, it added.

(Xinhua News Agency December 5, 2008)

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