Measles positive
Measles positiveiStock

The largest measles outbreak in Madagascar's history has struck the island country with over 115,000 documented cases, according to an Associated Press report on Sunday. Over 1,200 people have perished from the disease in the past seven months.

Only 58% of the population on Madagascar's main island has been vaccinated against measles, a rate that falls far short of the 90-95% necessary to prevent outbreaks. Madagascar has a population of 26.2 million people.

In addition to its inadequate vaccination rate, Madagascar, an island country off the eastern coast of Africa, suffers from a high rate of poverty and lack of resources. Almost 50% of the country's children are malnourished. "Malnutrition is the bed of measles, " Dr. Dossou Vincent Sodjinou, a World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist in Madagascar told AP.

"The epidemic, unfortunately, continues to expand in size though at a slower pace than a month ago," Sodjinou added. The epidemic, which began in September has affected mostly children under 15.

There's also a dearth of health information in the country and many parents are unaware of the free vaccines available.

According to the WHO, measles is one of the top causes of death for children worldwide with about 450 children dying from measles every day.

The WHO began a third vaccination program in Madagascar last month, hoping to reach 7.2 million children between six months and nine years. Madagascar's health ministry is also supplying free medications to areas in need.