Background: The Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4) to reduce mortality in children aged <5 years by two-thirds from 1990 to 2015 has made substantial progress. We describe the contribution of measles mortality reduction efforts, including those spearheaded by the Measles Initiative (launched in 2001, the Measles Initiative is an international partnership committed to reducing measles deaths worldwide and is led by the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the United Nations Foundation, and the World Health Organization).
Methods: We used published data to assess the effect of measles mortality reduction on overall and disease-specific global mortality rates among children aged <5 years by reviewing the results from studies with the best estimates on causes of deaths in children aged 0–59 months.
Results: The estimated measles-related mortality among children aged <5 years worldwide decreased from 872,000 deaths in 1990 to 556,000 in 2001 (36% reduction) and to 118,000 in 2008 (86% reduction). All-cause mortality in this age group decreased from >12 million in 1990 to 10.6 million in 2001 (13% reduction) and to 8.8 million in 2008 (28% reduction). Measles accounted for about 7% of deaths in this age group in 1990 and 1% in 2008, equal to 23% of the global reduction in all-cause mortality in this age group from 1990 to 2008.
Conclusions: Aggressive efforts to prevent measles have led to this remarkable reduction in measles deaths. The current funding gap and insufficient political commitment for measles control jeopardizes these achievements and presents a substantial risk to achieving MDG4.