WHO, partners begin measles campaign in CAR

The World Health Organization, UNICEF and Médecins Sans Frontières contributed to an emergency response immunization campaign to control a measles epidemic that began on Friday in Central African Republic.

The WHO and its partners began the emergency vaccination campaign after receiving confirmation by the Bangui Pasteur Institute of measles cases in two camps for displaced persons. There were three cases confirmed near the Bangui airport and five cases at the Don Bosco Centre in Damala.

The WHO intends to vaccinate more than 60,000 children between the ages of six months and 15 years, including 40,000 at the airport camp and more than 20,000 at the Damala site. Teams from the WHO visited the two sites on December 31 to look into the cases.

There are currently 50,000 displaced individuals at the Don Bosco Centre who fled violent clashes in the CAR's capital that began on December 5. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates the airport camp contains 100,000 displaced people.

''Our biggest concern is the overcrowded conditions and the lack of on-site individual and collective sanitation, which could contribute to the rapid spread of the disease unless urgent measures are taken to halt the current outbreak,'' Evariste Pabingui, a doctor from the Don Bosco Centre, said.

The WHO team will provide financial and technical support to the CAR's Expanded Programme on Immunization with the country's Ministry of Health to supervise the immunization activities. The WHO estimates that the campaign will last between three and five days.