Mother and child participate in the measles outbreak response in Zambia (Photo Source: UNICEF).

In sub-Saharan Africa, significant progress has been made in reducing childhood death and illness from vaccine preventable diseases. This is the result of parallel and complementary efforts to increase routine immunization capacity, and to target highly communicable diseases like polio and measles through mass campaign activities. Measles, a leading cause of death in young children, has been on the decline since 2000 and accounts for nearly 25% of the overall reduction in child deaths since 1990.  Between 2000-2008 as a result of accelerated measles mortality reduction (AMMR) strategies, measles deaths declined by 78% globally and 92% in Africa. 

This progress has slowed significantly since 2007 as funding for measles control activities has declined. Sub-Saharan Africa is at risk of losing the substantial gains it has made. Further, achieving Millennium Development Goal 4 – to reduce under-5 child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 - will not be possible without additional support for immunization. 

Global progress in preventing measles deaths and strengthening the health systems of developing countries relies on cooperation and leadership.  With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Task Force for Global Health is working in partnership with The Carter Center  to involve the Elders and other leaders in sub-Saharan Africa in mobilizing adequate resources to sustain and extend the progress achieved to date.  In a recent op-ed, President Carter and Kofi Annan suggested a balanced immunization investment strategy. Read the op-ed here. This collaborative project, Accelerated Measles Mortality Reduction Improving Routine Immunizations in Africa (AMMRIRIA) works with the Measles Initiative, a partnership established in 2001 to support immunizations campaigns and disease surveillance. The core members of the Measles Initiative include American Red Cross (ARC), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Foundation (UNF), and the World Health Organization (WHO).  The partnership has provided over $700 million in support of accelerated measles activities.