More than 150 children in Yemen under the age of five years have died from the measles since the middle of 2011, the United Nations said Thursday.
“A total of 3,800 new measles cases were reported between January 2011 and early March 2012,” according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “If left unchecked, the epidemic could infect an estimated 30,000 children and cause 5,000 deaths per year.”
The UN Central Emergency Response Fund authorized $5 million for an immunization program. Of that, the agency said, $2.6 million will come from the World Health Organization, and $2.4 will be budgeted by the UN Children’s Fund.
“The steep increase in measles incidents over the last three and a half months is due to the decline in immunization coverage and disruption in access to basic social services in most parts of the country during the civil unrest,” OCHA said earlier this month. “Mortality due to measles is already very high and will increase further, especially if compounded with a rise in acute watery diarrhea and increasing rates of malnutrition.”
Many families in Yemen are on the run from the nation’s internal warfare, the UN said.
Among the dangers in Yemen, the UN said, are “car bombs and the use of cars in suicide attacks, numerous incidents of gunfire in Sana’a and Aden, assassinations and military operations, with many deaths and injuries. There is also an increase in the rhetoric of threats. Following the recent election of a new president, many actors are actively positioning for strength and political influence.”
Measles “is spread by contact with droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat of an infected person,” according to the U.S. National Library of Science. “Sneezing and coughing can put contaminated droplets into the air.”
Among the complications of measles, according to the U.S., are bronchitis, encephalitis, ear infection and pneumonia.
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