November 20, 2009
DRC 2009 © Clementine Lacroix /MSF
An epidemic of measles is currently raging in the Miandgja, Ngomashi, and Lwibo districts in the Masisi region of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. There are hundreds of thousands of children living in these areas who have not been immunized against measles. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has therefore launched a large-scale emergency vaccination campaign and has also treated 130 children who have contracted measles.
Vaccinating those at risk
Outbreaks of measles can be particularly deadly in countries at war. In certain parts of Masisi, the health services cannot offer systematic vaccination due to security risks. Further, the concentration of a large number of families who have fled for refuge and who are now living in crowded conditions in camps increases the risk of infection considerably.
Getting into difficult-to-access areas
Many people living in areas that are difficult to reach still have little or no access to primary health care.
Measles is deadly, especially for malnourished children
“Measles is a highly contagious disease, and it kills a number of children here every year,” says Fabrizio Ferri, head of MSF’s medical emergency activities in Masisi. “The most severe forms of measles appear in young, malnourished children. The children don’t die directly from measles itself, but from its complications, such as encephalitis, severe diarrhea or pneumonia. This is why we’re administering vitamin A supplements alongside the measles vaccine, and we’re monitoring the nutritional status of patients during this campaign."
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)