Over 287,000 children vaccinated for measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Since the beginning of 2015, a southeast province in the DRC has been battling a measles epidemic. MSF has been providing support to the Ministry of Health in Katanga Province since the outbreak began.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that approximately 16,500 people have contracted measles and over 265 people have died from the outbreak, all within the first six months of 2015.
“This is the most serious epidemic Katanga has seen since 2011,” MSF Head of Mission in DRC Jean-Guy Vataux said. “We are adapting our current activities, and drawing on our experience from 2011. In one year, we have vaccinated almost 1.5 million children and treated more than 50,000 cases in 31 of the 68 health zones in Katanga Province. But people have difficulty accessing treatment, and it is also likely that cases are under-reported, so the current epidemics may well be more serious than they appear. It is important to act as quickly as possible, so that we don’t end up in the same situation as in 2011, or an even more serious one.”
“Despite successive vaccination campaigns and the number of children supposed to be protected, measles is virtually endemic in Katanga and epidemics are recurring,” Vataux said. “This is due to the scarcity of resources combined with major difficulties in implementing routine vaccination programs and emergency campaigns. There are a number of reasons for this: shortage of funds, running out of vaccines, problems maintaining the cold chain, which is only possible in major towns and cities, and a lack of qualified human resources. Health authorities, UN humanitarian agencies and donors need to mobilize more resources – medical, logistical, financial, material and human – to help respond to the current epidemic.”