PARIS (AFP) – Just ten countries accounted for three quarters of a global outbreak of measles cases last year, the UN Children's Agency said on Friday (March 1), including one of the richest nations in the world. world, France.
Ninety-eight countries reported more measles cases in 2018 compared to 2017, and the body warned that conflict, complacency and the growing anti-vaccine movement threatened to undo decades of work to tame the disease.
"This is a wake-up call. We have a safe, effective and cheap vaccine against a highly contagious disease – a vaccine that has saved almost a million lives every year for the past two decades," said Henrietta Fore, Unicef's executive director.
"These cases did not happen overnight. Just as the serious outbreaks we are seeing today happened in 2018, the lack of action today will have disastrous consequences for the children tomorrow."
Measles is more contagious than tuberculosis or ebola, but it is eminently preventable with a vaccine that costs pennies.
But the World Health Organization (WHO) said last year that cases worldwide shot up nearly 50 percent in 2018, killing about 136,000 people.
Ukraine, the Philippines and Brazil recorded the highest annual increases in cases. In Ukraine alone there were 35,120 cases – nearly 30,000 more than in 2017.
Brazil recorded 10,262 cases reported after having no cases in the previous year.
While most of the countries that experienced high peaks in cases are experiencing riots or conflicts, France has seen its caseload increase by 2,269.
The resurgence of the disease in some countries has been associated with medically unfounded allegations linking the measles vaccine to autism, which has been disseminated in part in social media by members of the so-called "anti-vax" movement.
The WHO last month listed "vaccine hesitation" among the top 10 global health threats in 2019.
"Almost all of these cases are preventable and yet children are getting infected, even in places where there is simply no excuse," Fore said.
"Measles can be the disease, but often the true infection is misinformation, mistrust and complacency." Other nations included in the list of 10 UNICEF increased cases were Yemen, Venezuela, Serbia, Madagascar, Sudan and Thailand.