An article by Amir Murtaza published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Amir Murtaza

It is roughly estimated that more than 40 children have died because of measles in Pakistan’s biggest Punjab province.  Media reports further informed that hundreds of children have contracted the disease recently and measles patients continued to approach government hospitals for treatment.

Measles is a contagious viral disease that spreads through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing.  It is highly contagious that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will get the disease. Moreover the disease causes depletion of essential micronutrients in the body resulting in fatal complications, including pneumonia, gastroenteritis, and encephalitis.

It is pertinent to recall in 2012, more than 300 fatalities of children were reported due to measles in Pakistan.  Most of these deaths were reported in the month of December 2012 in second most populated Sindh province of Pakistan.

Measles occurs throughout the world and remains a common, but serious, disease in poor and developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Measles is a leading cause of vaccine preventable deaths in children worldwide.  In 2011, there were 158 000 measles deaths globally – about 430 deaths every day or 18 deaths every hour.”

It is a fact that more than 95% measles death occur in poor and developing countries, where availability of health services, especially in public hospitals, are very limited.  The recent deaths of children, due to measles, in Punjab could also be preventable if the government and health department properly and timely manage the anti-measles immunization campaign in all over the province.

One may wonder that why the health department officials in Punjab have failed to take adequate steps for the prevention of measles in the province, despite the fact that measles crises had already hit many parts of Sindh province at the end of 2012.

The 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO), preamble states that, “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition“.  The WHO further states that the right to health means that governments must generate conditions in which everyone can be as healthy as possible.

In addition, the government of Pakistan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which recognizes that children are vulnerable and therefore require special care and assistance.   Article 24 of CRC stated, States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services…”

Almas Khatoon, staff member of a local NGO observed, “Availability of sufficient health services, in public sector, has been an issue of concern for many years due to low spending on health sector.  In addition to meagre services, common people also bear the wrath of health practitioners, working in public hospitals, who used strikes as a toll to force the government to accept their demands, mainly the revision of their service structure, including perks and privileges.”

Diseases like measles and polio are absolutely preventable through vaccination.  The measles vaccine has been in use for over 40 years, all over the world.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Measles vaccination resulted in a 71% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2011 worldwide. In 2011, about 84% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000.”

Media reports mentioned that full coverage of measles vaccine has not been achieved, as yet, and still a number of children need to get vaccinated.  The measles vaccine is highly effective and safe; additionally, the proper management of the vaccine is certainly not an imposable task.  The only requirement is dedication, commitment and a political will to save the future generation of the country.

It is very heartening that the Government of Punjab has taken steps to create awareness, about the prevention of measles, among common people.  In addition, the government has also planned and started a campaign to immunize those children, who have not received the measles vaccine as yet.

The World Immunization Week is starting from 20th April.  Through the World Immunization Week, the World Health Organization (WHO) aims to promote one of the world’s most powerful tools for health – the use of vaccines to protect, or “immunize”, people of all ages against disease. It is an important time for the government to utilize the opportunity and carryout massive immunization campaign in all parts of the country.

Regrettably, a very small section of the society is trying to make immunization a controversial issue in the country; however, an overwhelming majority is aware of the importance and benefits of immunization for our children.  Print and electronic media should play their due role and allocate sufficient time or space in creating awareness about the immunization.  Last but not the least, international organizations and donor agencies should provide technical support and help to the provincial governments in arranging required vaccine.


The AHRC is not responsible for the views shared in this article, which do not necessarily reflect its own.

About the Author:

Amir Murtaza is a research based writer and can be approached at

Document ID :AHRC-ETC-018-2013
Countries : Pakistan
Date : 19-03-2013