'India unable to eradicate measles due to leadership changes'

According to Andrea Gay, executive director of Children's Health of the United Nations Foundation (UNF), India is the only country that has not achieved the global attempt to reduce measles. "All other regions have achieved the United Nations goal of reducing measles mortality by 90 percent during 2000-2010 two years ahead of time," Gay said in an interview.

Gay, who was in Ghana to attend a board meeting of the UNF, told IANS: "India has not yet started to implement campaigns intended to fight the disease. We know that they have scheduled this campaigns for December 2010 and we hope they would not fail this time."

She said, "even though the country is still trying to do what is right, frequent changes at the top of the health sector has not been helpful."

The UNF is a private-public charity that has benefited from a $1billion donation from  CNN executive Ted Turner and is channelling this into various health challenges around the world.

Gay said, "the Indian authorities were initially not certain that some of the strategies involved in the global attempt to fight measles would work in the country but have since been convinced of the success worldwide."

"India needs to embark upon a large-scale vaccination campaign in the fight to reduce measles which currently accounts for a majority of global measles death," she added.

Working closely with national governments and local communities, the UNF's measles initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 700 million children in 60 countries around the world, she said, adding "measles fell by 78 percent globally from 733,000 in 2000 to 164,000 in 2008".

"It costs just a dollar to vaccinate a child against measles," Gay said, adding that the disease still claims 450 lives each day making it one of the leading causes of death among children worldwide.

Measles, a highly contagious viral disease, kills about a million people a year around the world.

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