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In an op-ed by former US president Jimmy Carter and former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan last month, the two laid out a troubling view of the Millennium Development Goal number four: to reduce under-five child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 will not be possible.

The problem, as they see it, is in the diminishing funding of vaccination programs. Country-wide immunization campaigns provide trained personnel who deliver vaccinations, properly, to all children, while at the same time providing other benefits such as medicines, insecticide-treated bed-nets for malaria control, etc.

Despite some reassuring statistics, like a 78 percent decrease in polio and measles since 2000, the funding for measles control has dropped 75 percent since 2007, and over 30 African countries have had measles outbreaks over the past year.

Carter and Annan blame the funding decrease on the depressed economy and on “donor and recipient fatigue.” Under these circumstances, the WHO estimates a return to over 500,000 measles deaths per year by 2013, “erasing progress achieved over the past 18 years.”

The solution according to Carter and Annan: “We need a balanced immunization investment strategy that reinforces routine immunization, achieves existing initiatives to eradicate polio and reduce measles deaths by 95 percent, and enables introduction of new vaccines. At the global level, developed countries and philanthropies need to recognize that developing country needs are increasing as new life-saving public health measures become available, and adjust their support accordingly. National governments must review budgetary priorities and increase their support of their own programs. At the local level, people must demand that vaccines and immunization services be made available without barriers. Only by concerted actions at local, national and global levels can we fully realize the massive potential benefits of vaccines.”

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