Copenhagen, 9 May 2019 – WHO is scaling up its response to the ongoing measles outbreaks in the European Region, including by creating an operational platform to accelerate its support to affected countries.
The decision followed an assessment of the measles situation in the Region. It was based on the growing number of children and adults affected by and dying from the disease, and the persistence of pockets of non-immunized or under-immunized individuals in many countries fuelling the continuing spread of measles.
Since 1 January 2018, 47 of the 53 countries in the Region have together reported over 100 000 measles cases and over 90 measles-related deaths. WHO has been supporting them over time to improve their immunization coverage and tackle disease spread. However, as measles continues to circulate across countries, more needs to be done.
“We have observed an unprecedented upsurge in people sick with this preventable disease, and too many have lost their lives to it,” says Dr Dorit Nitzan, Acting Regional Emergency Director at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. “This is unacceptable and we need to be bolder and scale up our response to the next level. I am proud to see that different parts and levels of WHO are intensifying their combined efforts to stop these outbreaks.”
“WHO has been working closely with countries in the European Region to enhance their capacity to protect children from measles. However, this alarming resurgence is a warning that the Region’s immunization coverage is not yet sufficient,” explains Dr Masoud Dara, Acting Director of Communicable Diseases at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. “Escalating our response will enable us to raise political awareness and will help in strengthening European health systems in the longer term to avoid future outbreaks.”