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Uganda Records 100% Increase in Measles Deaths -MOH

According to the Ministry of Health figures, the deaths recorded last year showed an increase of over 100 per cent. In 2018, the number of deaths recorded in the country stood at 80 but that figure in 2019 went up to 160 deaths by the end of November.

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A total of 150 deaths occurred last year due to measles according to the Uganda National Expanded Program on Immunization.

According to the Ministry of Health figures, the deaths recorded last year showed an increase of over 100 per cent. In 2018, the number of deaths recorded in the country stood at 80 but that figure in 2019 went up to 160 deaths by the end of November.

A report, titled 'Progress Towards Regional Elimination of Measles-Worldwide 2000-2019', released by the World Health Organisation shows that globally the number of measles cases increased by over 50 percent between 2016 and 2019. The figures indicate that 869,770 cases  and 207,500 people succumbed to the disease.

According to the report, among WHO regions, Africa followed by Europe had the highest numbers of cases and deaths. More than half of the reported cases and deaths occured in Africa with 618,595 infections and 147,900 deaths. Dr Alfred Driwale, the UNEPI programme manager attributes the high deaths to poor attitudes towards immunization.

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According to Driwale, the number went down after Uganda carried out the mass measles/rubella immunization campaign in October 2019. Dr Driwale adds that children become open targets for infection whenever they are not immunized.

"Since we immunised people to date, the number of suspected measles cases and even deaths has reduced. Before the campaign, we were recording 2,000 suspected cases in a month nationwide. Today that figure stands at 200. From last year November to date, we have reported less than 50 deaths," he said.

Dr Driwale attributed the high number of cases in Africa to the outbreak  in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2019 in which more than 300,000 people were infected. According to data from the United Nations Children's Fund- UNICEF and WHO, over 6,000 people succumbed to the disease in DRC alone.

The WHO Director-General  Dr Tedros Adhanom says that more community engagements are needed to stop the spread of the deadly measles virus.

“We know how to prevent measles outbreaks and deaths. These data send a clear message that we are failing to protect children from measles in every region of the world.  We must collectively work to support countries and engage communities to reach everyone, everywhere with measles vaccine and stop this deadly virus,”he said.

To reduce on the number of deaths being reported in Uganda and the world at large, the report recommends an increase in the number of times a child gets the measles vaccine.It says children should get two doses of the vaccine at least eight months apart.