September 30, 2010

Scores of people came to an MSF facility in Malawi in May to get vaccinated for measles.

Malawi 2010 © Nabila Kram

Scores of people came to a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) facility in Malawi in May to get vaccinated for measles. Over the past two years, MSF teams have responded to increasingly frequent and widespread measles outbreaks in Africa. Previously, the World Health Organization's Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) had helped achieve a very real decline in measles cases and deaths. The WHO, in fact, had targeted measles for eradication by 2015. But in the past year, as limitations in EPI became clearer and resources were demobilized by donor nations and bodies that seem to believe measles is no longer a grave threat, the disease has seen a marked rise.

In the field, MSF focuses primarily on surveillance, patient care, and emergency immunization. Last year, working with ministries of health and other stakeholders, MSF immunized more than 1.5 million children and adolescents in response to measles outbreaks in 10 countries. In 2010, if current trends hold, the numbers could double.

Rapid interventions can mitigate the spread of outbreaks, but obstacles remain. MSF has been speaking out about the dysfunction inherent in the current approach to battling measles and the need, in collaboration with all stakeholders, to design a more effective response.

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