By Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia
The World Health Organization commends Maldives for its unprecedented efforts to eliminate measles. The launch of the Measles and Rubella campaign today is a demonstration of its strong commitment to rid the country of the disease, a major childhood killer globally as well as in WHO South-East Asia Region.
Though countries in WHO South-East Asia Region are rolling out MR campaigns, Maldives’ intervention is unique as it covers adults up to the age of 25 years. The campaign will help close any immunity gaps and lay the groundwork for elimination of this life-threatening disease.
Maldives has not reported any measles case since 2010. This mass campaign will fast track progress towards WHO’s regional goal of measles elimination by 2020, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under five by 2030, and ensuring health and wellbeing for all at all ages.
The campaign is also a strong example of how multi-sectoral and society-wide mobilization can further public health goals. Support for and participation in the campaign has been established from the education, tourism, defense, sports and youth, housing, and Islamic affairs ministries, while public service media, newspapers, youth groups and other civic-minded organizations and businesses have demonstrated their commitment to the cause.
In the South-East Asia Region in 2015 an estimated 54 500 lives were lost to measles, while approximately 50 000 births were affected by rubella, a disease that causes irreversible birth defects such as deafness and heart disease when transmitted from mother to fetus.
Enhanced surveillance for both measles and rubella will meanwhile strengthen Maldives’ health system and provide critical infrastructure for further public health gains. In 2016 alone Maldives was able to eliminate malaria and lymphatic filariasis. As this initiative demonstrates, further path-breaking achievements are likely.
WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises the following 11 Member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
Ms Shamila Sharma
WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia
Mobile: +91 98182 87256
Tel: +91 11 23370804, Extn: 26575