Background: In 2002, the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children adopted a goal to reduce deaths owing to measles by half by the end of 2005, compared with 1999 estimates. We describe efforts and progress made towards this goal.
Methods: We assessed trends in immunisation against measles on the basis of national implementation of the WHO/UNICEF comprehensive strategy for measles mortality reduction, and the provision of a second opportunity for measles immunisation. We used a natural history model to evaluate trends in mortality due to measles.
Results: Between 1999 and 2005, according to our model mortality owing to measles was reduced by 60%, from an estimated 873,000 deaths (uncertainty bounds 634,000-1,140,000) in 1999 to 345,000 deaths (247,000-458,000) in 2005. The largest percentage reduction in estimated measles mortality during this period was in the western Pacific region (81%), followed by Africa (75%) and the eastern Mediterranean region (62%). Africa achieved the largest total reduction, contributing 72% of the global reduction in measles mortality. Nearly 7.5 million deaths from measles were prevented through immunisation between 1999 and 2005, with supplemental immunisation activities and improved routine immunisation accounting for 2.3 million of these prevented deaths.
Interpretation: The achievement of the 2005 global measles mortality reduction goal is evidence of what can be accomplished for child survival in countries with high childhood mortality when safe, cost-effective, and affordable interventions are backed by country-level political commitment and an effective international partnership.