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A measles epidemic that began in 2010 and affected the entire country continues to sicken tens of thousands of children in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
The epidemic has spread to areas recently hit by a malaria outbreak between May and September 2012, causing exceptionally high mortality rates among children under five years old. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
This epidemic has proven particularly deadly among the very young and the population’s needs have outstripped the capacities of the Congolese health system. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
Even health facilities that do have supplies must deal with frequent medicine stock-outs and major staff shortages. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
“We’re trying to find solutions to save lives by any means possible because we have no supplies,” said Dr. Mukambula, medical director of the hospital in Titulé, Orientale Province. "We don’t have anything." DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
The vast majority of the population lives below the poverty line and most of the care that is available comes with fees attached. Many people, therefore, do not seek medical attention when they get sick because they can't afford it. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
The currently affected area—Equateur and Orientale provinces—is huge, and the many logistical challenges the area presents create obstacles to reaching the most isolated communities. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
MSF teams travel by motorcycle and canoe to vaccinate people in Orientale Province’s most isolated villages against measles. DRC 2013 © Ikram N'gadi/MSF
To help fill in gaps in the health care system, MSF has been treating patients and hospitalizing seriously ill children for several months, all free of charge. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
MSF provides supplies to health care facilities and trains medical staff and community health workers to seek out patients in the most distant communities. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
Teams have also organized a referral system for patients requiring hospitalization. DRC 2013 © Ikram N'gadi/MSF
Patients with measles who are not treated in time can develop serious medical complications, such as respiratory infections, dehydration, and malnutrition. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
“At the beginning of our intervention, many patients were coming in a severe state,” said Dr. Narcisse Wega, MSF’s emergency coordinator. “We managed to drastically bring down mortality by providing appropriate treatment.” DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
In the triage unit at the Titulé hospital, the parents of ill children report many other measles cases in their communities. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
A young mother named Marie is weak and suffering from anemia. She is accompanied by her sister, who holds Marie’s newborn. They had to walk more than 13 miles [22 kilometers] to reach the nearest medical facility in Yahuma health region, Orientale Province. DRC 2013 © Ikram N'gadi/MSF
To reduce the spread of the epidemic, MSF is organizing mass vaccination campaigns for children under 15 years of age. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
Though the illness affects people of all ages, the youngest are the most seriously affected, like this child receiving treatment in Titulé hospital’s intensive care unit. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
Patients often see a traditional healer first, seeking treatment at a health center as a last resort. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
As of February 2013, MSF has treated more than 18,500 people and vaccinated more than 440,000 children since launching its intervention in March 2012. DRC 2013 © Tristan Pfund/MSF
A measles epidemic that began in 2010 and has affected the entire country continues to sicken tens of thousands of children in northern DRC.
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