June 18, 2008

Deadly measles outbreaks occurring in conflict-ridden eastern province

The violence in North Kivu province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, into internally displaced person (IDP) camps or into the homes of host families. Both the displaced and the residents in North Kivu lack the most basic living standards, such as good hygiene conditions, clean water, food, and healthcare.

As a result, there are disease outbreaks. Since late 2007, cholera outbreaks have affected hundreds of people in Rutshuru, Mweso, and Masisi towns.

Measles, another deadly disease, targets children in this area. Since the beginning of the year, MSF teams have treated more than 1,000 children with measles in Masisi and Rutshuru districts in North Kivu.

In order to limit the effects of measles outbreaks and to protect as many children as possible against contracting the disease, MSF teams are currently vaccinating children between 6 months to 15 years old in a remote area of southern North Kivu called "Petit Nord". Since January, about 120,000 children have been vaccinated; thousands more will be vaccinated in the next few weeks.

In the area of Masisi town, MSF vaccinated 33,000 children against measles in March. Another mass vaccination campaign will begin there soon, targeting about 45,000 children. In addition, MSF has vaccinated about 50,000 children in the area of Kitchanga, also in Masisi district.

In Rutshuru district, MSF vaccinated 37,000 children against measles in late 2007. Following recent fighting, many displaced people have gathered in and around Nyanzale and Kabizo. Often, newly arrived IDPs have not been vaccinated, which increases the risk of outbreaks. And, in February, a measles outbreak began; between March and May MSF vaccinated about 36,700 children.

In the neighbouring area of Kabizo, MSF opened a programme in May to provide health care and continue on the vaccination activity in Katsiro, Kasoko and other villages in the area, assisting both the resident and displaced population.

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