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A highly contagious disease that kills tens of thousands of children every year, measles can cause lifelong disabilities — including blindness, deafness and even permanent brain injury — and costs the global economy millions of dollars annually in medical expenses and lost productivity.

For people in high-income countries, measles seems like a disease from the past, thanks to the measles, mumps and rubella immunization that is routinely administered during pediatric doctor’s visits. But measles remains a dire threat to children in low-income nations, with most deaths occurring in children under the age of 5.

Over the last 20 years, UNICEF and its partners have pursued an ambitious initiative to work with governments and communities to carry out mass vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance around the world.

"The fact that any child dies from a vaccine-preventable disease like measles is frankly an outrage and a collective failure to protect the world's most vulnerable children," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. "To save lives, we must ensure everyone can benefit from vaccines — which means investing in immunization and quality health care as a right for all."

How do children miss out on the measles vaccine?

Vaccinating all children is a challenge when so many are displaced by conflict or natural disasters and other emergencies. They miss out because they live in rural or hard-to-reach areas, or when health care resources are under-funded or scarce. Children are also bypassed because of humanitarian crises in places like Yemen and Syria. And in dozens of countries measles campaigns were stalled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

UNICEF has a plan to stop measles

UNICEF’s Immunization Roadmap for 2018 – 2030 outlines an ambitious plan to take advantage of new technologies to reach unvaccinated children by tailoring strategies to fit the needs of different countries and even regions of countries. The plan calls for UNICEF to work closely with partners at the country, regional and global levels to achieve its goals.

UNICEF works with governments, non-governmental organizations, rights-based organizations and private-sector entities all joining forces to deliver immunization services in low- and middle-income countries. Collaboration among manufacturers, health agencies, governments and development partners will help to keep vaccinations affordable and within reach for those who need them.

UNICEF has supported the vaccination of children since 1949 and is a founding member of all key global immunization partnerships, including Gavi, the Measles and Rubella Initiative, the Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination Initiation, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the Global Vaccine Action Plan. UNICEF thus shapes the vision, strategies and policies that make up the global immunization agenda.

Help UNICEF protect children against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. 

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