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Millions saved from measles

A DECADE-LONG drive to immunise children in the developing world is beginning to pay off, with deaths from measles, one of the commonest child-killing diseases, down 90 per cent since the programme started, according to a report by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), published today.

Unicef's executive director, James Grant said, however, that the five major diseases: pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles, tetanus and whooping cough, were still killing more than 8 million children every year, 'many times more than are killed in all the world's wars and famines'. Pneumonia has replaced diarrhoea as the biggest child-killer, causing more than 3 million deaths annually. Cheap, effective antibiotics exist, but 'costly, useless drugs continue to be marketed in every village and neighbourhood in the developing world,' says the report, The State of the World's Children 1994.

The prospects for Africa's children give greatest cause for concern. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region of the world getting steadily poorer. Unicef says the region is caught in a vicious spiral of poverty, population growth and environmental deterioration: more than 200 million people cannot meet basic needs, and the population is set to treble by 2030. Aids, too, is hitting children hard. In sub-Saharan Africa one adult in 40 is HIV-positive. By the year 2000, Unicef calculates that 10 million African children will be orphaned or abandoned because of Aids.