Afghanistan anti-measles campaign reaches 5.6 million

A United Nations-backed government anti-measles campaign in Afghanistan has vaccinated more than 5.6 million children in its first two weeks.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said that 27,000 health workers and volunteers participated in the campaign, which occurred in 16 of the country's 34 provinces. The campaign's organizers are now stressing the need for funds to complete the effort, according to the United Nations.

The World Health Organization, one of the campaign's supporting agencies, said the additional funding is needed to cover the country's remaining 18 provinces. The next phase of the program is scheduled to begin in September.

Routine immunization coverage and epidemiological surveillance has led WHO officials to determine that Afghanistan must repeat measles campaigns every two to four years. Kabul initiated its first campaign in 2001, and two follow-up campaigns were conducted in 2006 and 2009. Afghanistan hopes to eliminate measles entirely by 2015.

Afghanistan is part of the global measles elimination program known as The Measles and Rubella Initiative, which was launched in 2001 to support nationwide campaigns in the developing world. Since 2001, more than one billion children have been vaccinated as a result of the initiative. Globally, immunization rates against the measles have risen from 72 to 85 percent.