65,000 Children Vaccinated Against Measles in DRC's South Kivu

In the past month, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in the Bunyakiri region of Democratic Republic of Congo's South Kivu Province have vaccinated more than 65,000 children aged 6 months to 15 years against measles. The campaign had to be briefly suspended in the north of the region due to the volatile security situation in an area where several armed groups are present and fighting is frequent.

The operation in Bunyakiri was also complicated by the mountainous geography of the region and rivers swollen during the current rainy season. This latest outbreak of measles, which can be lethal in children also affected by malnutrition, was detected last October when the first cases arrived to area health centers. After completing an epidemiological analysis of the situation, MSF decided to launch the mass vaccination campaign.

More than 100 people participated in MSF’s vaccination campaign and treatment program. Begun once it was possible to access the northern reaches of the region, the vaccination was carried out from December 26 to January 19.

Teams were based in different health centers and the population was called on to bring in their children. Mobile teams moved into the more inaccessible areas by motorbike. The campaign reached at least 75 percent of the children in the region despite the difficulties in access, the security issues, and the highly mobile nature of the population. 

Fizi healthzone, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, November 14, 2010. /n<br/>/nIn South Kivu, MSF is running a mass immunization campaign in Fizi health zone that aims to vaccinate 120,000 children between the ages of 6 months and 15 years against measles over a period of six weeks. This would represent over 90% vaccination coverage for the health zone. Preparations started after a measles epidemic was confirmed at the end of September. Since then MSF has treated around 300 people suffering from measles and its complications. Measles is a highly contagious viral infection which can spread through susceptible populations quickly and can have deadly consequences. Epidemics like these are avoidable if the population has been vaccinated. Mass immunization campaigns are so important because they raise the level of vaccination coverage and prevent unnecessary deaths. In 2009 alone, MSF vaccinated more than half a million children against measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
DRC 2010 © Haavar Karlsen