Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a public–private global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunisation in lower-income countries, has announced Rwanda among the 15 countries it will support to roll out measles and rubella catch-up and follow-up vaccination campaigns in 2024. ALSO READ: Rwanda mulls using biometric tech in vaccination programs A statement published by the organisation on Thursday, November 16, noted that the campaign aims to reach about 38.5 million children in 15 countries — Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ghana, Lao PDR, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali (rubella catch-up), Mauritania, Nepal, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania. The World Health Organization (WHO) says there was an alarming rise in measles cases, disruptive outbreaks, and deaths in 2022. Cases of the disease globally are reported to have increased by 18 per cent to over 9 million in 2022. Deaths went up by 43 per cent (136,200) compared to 2021, while 37 countries experienced outbreaks in 2022. It is also reported that 22 million children missed their first measles vaccine dose in 2022. More than half of these live in just 10 countries, six of which are lower-income countries: DR Congo, Ethiopia, India, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Aurélia Nguyen, Chief Programme Officer at Gavi, said preventing outbreaks requires consistently vaccinating at least 95 per cent of eligible children. “This was already challenging before the Covid-19 pandemic, and with cases, outbreaks, and preventable deaths rising so sharply due to increased immunity gaps related to the pandemic, it shows how even more important it is that our Alliance provides an unprecedented level of support to countries in 2024,” he noted. Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads easily when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. It can cause severe disease, complications, and even death. Measles can affect anyone but is most common in children. It infects the respiratory tract and then spreads throughout the body. Symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose, and a rash all over the body. According to the WHO, being vaccinated is the best way to prevent getting sick with measles or spreading it to other people. Before the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every two to three years and caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year. An estimated 128,000 people died from measles in 2021 — mostly children under the age of five years, despite the availability of a safe and cost-effective vaccine, the WHO says.