Almost 200 children have died of measles in 16 African countries in three months, the UN World Health Organisation and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Thursday, asking for funds for vaccinations.
"Sixteen countries of west and central Africa are in the throes of a measles outbreak, with 22,364 cases and 185 deaths, in the year to March 28," the two agencies said in a statement.
The worst outbreaks have occurred in Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon.
Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Benin, the Central African Republic, Senegal and Togo are also affected.
The UN agencies pointed out that in west and central Africa, most countries had vaccinated only 80 percent of their inhabitants, when the WHO recommendation was to reach a vaccination rate of 95 percent.
"Such a figure means they (the countries concerned) can expect to have large, sustained outbreaks every three to four years," said WHO regional director for Africa, Luis Gomes Sambo.
In the region last year, "a major outbreak in Burkina Faso resulted in more than 50,000 cases and 340 deaths and localized outbreaks in Benin, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Senegal accounted for 16,808 reported cases and 68 deaths".
According to the WHO and UNICEF, "a shortfall in funding for follow-up measles campaigns of around 59 million dollars (39 million euros) worldwide and 16 million dollars for Africa ... puts children at risk if efforts are not sustained through an appropriate response from donors and governments.
"Vaccination efforts, both through campaigns and routine immunization, must be sustained and efficiently implemented."
"To eliminate the risk of resurgence, countries must continue follow-up vaccination campaigns every two to four years until their healthcare systems can routinely provide two doses of measles vaccination to all children and provide treatment for the disease" Dr Sambo said.