March 01, 2009

On February 18, 2009, MSF started a massive measles vaccination campaign in the district of Adré in Eastern Chad, along the Sudan border. MSF teams have up to today vaccinated 19,000 children against measles.

On February 18, 2009, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) started a massive measles vaccination campaign in the district of Adré in Eastern Chad, along the Sudan border. MSF teams have up to today vaccinated 19,000 children against measles. They aim to vaccinate 104,000 children, all between 6 months and 14 years old. The plan was to complete all vaccinations within six weeks, but it could take longer due to logistical complications and high security risks that are hampering the campaign.

Approximately 130,000 children are reported to live in the district of Adré, including 25,000 children from Darfur who will be vaccinated by the health centers in the respective refugee camps.

Several teams that include 60 MSF staff members and several daily volunteers also vaccinate the children against polio and screen them for acute malnutrition. A team of eight supports and coordinates the vaccination teams from the main bases in Farchana and Abéché. Aside from those vaccinated against measles, 8,300 children were vaccinated against polio and more than 7,600 children below five years were screened for malnutrition.

The measles vaccination campaign is mobilizing significant human and logistical resources. Two days ahead of the campaign, a team meets with authorities in the villages where they plan to go next in order to raise awareness about the disease, inform about the vaccination campaign, and try to verify the number of children in the area.

A large number of small villages have to be covered as the population has no way of traveling and is widely spread out. Logistics are challenging, as transport can only be done by big trucks and the roads are extremely difficult to travel. Moreover, the teams need to use rental trucks instead of the more reliable 4x4 vehicles for security reasons, since carjacking is an enormous problem in Chad. Another challenge is the cold chain: all vaccines need to be kept cold from the suppliers in Amsterdam until the moment they are used to vaccinate the children. This is a huge challenge in a hot country like Chad and requires good organization and training.

Because the official population numbers are inaccurate in some areas, the teams are finding more people than expected, meaning more vaccinations are needed than originally planned. The emergency operation may need to be extended to sufficiently cover the affected population, or teams may have to de-prioritize certain areas.

Since February 7, other MSF teams have been vaccinating more than 40,000 children against measles in the neighboring district of Abéché.