The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Wednesday of a "perfect storm" of conditions for measles outbreaks affecting children, due to disruptions related to COVID-19 and the displacement of millions of people by conflicts, reported Xinhua.
According to the UN agencies, almost 17,338 measles cases were reported worldwide in January and February 2022, compared to 9,665 during the first two months of 2021. The almost 80 percent increase has made "conditions ripe for serious outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses," particularly of measles, which will affect millions of children in 2022.
Behind the hiking number of measles cases have been COVID-related disruptions, increasing inequalities in access to vaccines, and the diversion of resources from routine immunization, they said in a statement.
Meanwhile, with millions of people being displaced due to conflicts and crises including in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan, disruptions to routine immunization and COVID-19 vaccination services, lack of clean water and sanitation, and overcrowding have all increased the risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned in the statement that the impact of disruptions to immunization services will be felt for decades to come, and called on countries to get vaccination programs back on track.
As of April 2022, the UN agencies have reported 21 large and disruptive measles outbreaks around the world in the last 12 months. Most of the measles cases were reported in Africa and the East Mediterranean region, with the largest outbreaks in Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia.