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Deadly Outbreak of Measles Engulfs Yemen

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A new outbreak of measles in Yemen has killed at least 126 children under the age of five.

The outbreak reportedly recorded since mid-2011 due to a failing health services as a result of political turmoil.

The Yemeni government has recently asked for international assistance earlier this month.

According to media reports, the latest numbers show a total of 3,600 cases resulting in 126 deaths since mid-2011.

The death rate is 1 in 30 infected.

The United Nations today is backing a massive vaccination campaign under way in conflict-hit Yemen.

measles
A staff member of the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) vaccinates a child against measles in a refugee camp. UN Photo/Marie Frechon
The campaign was supported by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). It will target an estimated eight million children under the age of ten following the most recent outbreak of the disease.

"This situation is unacceptable." - UNICEF Representative Geert Cappelaere

He cites that measles is a preventable disease and Yemen was close to being declared measles free in 2010 with zero deaths.

According to reports, the disease is spreading quickly to highly populated areas as well as areas suffering from high levels of acute malnutrition.

WHO says measles is a big killer of children. However, measles can be easily prevented by vaccination.

The high rate of malnutrition and diarrhoea among children would increase the fatality of measles. Therefore, it's very important to implement the national campaign to prevent thousands of deaths among children, WHO cited.

The $9 million vaccination campaign will be implemented in phases, with the first targeting 1.5 million children in regions of the country with the highest reported incidence, including the governorates of Abyan, Al-Baidha, Aden, Dhamar, Lahj, Shabwa, and Sa'ada. The second phase will cover the rest of the country and will be launched at the end of the month.

In addition, the campaign will also provide polio vaccinations and vitamin A supplementation for over one million children.

This latest measles outbreak follows a drop in immunization rates prompted by the civil strife which afflicted Yemen last year as part of the larger unrest across the Arab world. Some areas of the country saw a decrease in immunization rates by up to 60 per cent, leaving children vulnerable to a range of preventable diseases, including measles as well as polio.

On September 2011, the UN has forecasted that a likelihood of outbreaks of deadly diseases such as measles increases by the day" amid high rates of malnutrition among children in communities displaced by conflict across the country.

Yemen has been in the maelstrom of violent upheaval since February 2011 when unrest spread across the Arab world with people rising up to demand greater civil liberties and democratic governance. The Government responded with a violent crackdown on demonstrations.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain english. Contact Mina through NewsBlaze. Read more stories by Mina Fabulous.

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