Following confirmation of measles cases among children in several camps for internally displaced people in Bangui, Central African Republic, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is vaccinating 68,000 children in five camps in the city in order to prevent an outbreak. Hundreds of thousands of people are currently displaced in camps around Bangui as a result of widespread violence that began early December.
MSF has already vaccinated more than 25,000 children in the Don Bosco and Boy Rabe camps and plans to have vaccinated 40,000 children in Mpoko camp and 3,000 in the Saint Michel and Saint Elime camps by Friday, January 10. All children between six months and 15 years of age are being targeted, which accounts for 40 percent of the total camp population. MSF also screens children under five years old for malnutrition and treats the severe cases. Complicated cases are referred to a specialized center.
“Measles can be a very deadly disease for children and is highly contagious,” said MSF’s vaccination coordinator Tessy Fautsch. “Ten to thirty percent of those children with already-low natural immunity do not survive, unless they are vaccinated. As many of the children in the camps are weak and living in deplorable conditions, we absolutely want to prevent an epidemic, which is why we are carrying out these vaccinations.”
Measles is highly contagious and is easily and rapidly transmitted from one person to another through coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact. The risks of transmission are therefore greater in overcrowded settings, such as the camps in Bangui.
Complications are common, and include severe respiratory infections (pneumonia), severe diarrhea and dehydration, and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Measles can also cause blindness and ear infections. Children, especially those that are malnourished, are most vulnerable to the disease.
MSF has been present in Central African Rebublic since 1997. MSF currently manages seven regular projects (in Batangafo, Boguila, Carnot, Kabo, Ndéle, Paoua, and Zémio) and four emergency projects (in Bangui, Bossangoa, Bouca, and Bria). In addition, an MSF mobile emergency team covers the displacement camps in Bangui.
MSF hopes to start activities in the hospitals of Bangassou and Ouango. In total, MSF provides free medical care through its work in seven hospitals, two medical centers, and 40 health posts, and has more than 100 expatriate personnel and about 1,100 local staff in its teams.