AFRICA/DR CONGO - It is necessary to vaccinate children against measles

Monday, 28 July 2014

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - The immunization campaign against measles has just concluded in four health areas: Lumbishi, Numbi, Tushunguti and Shanje in the hilly surroundings of the town of Minova, the so called Hauts Plateaux, areas to the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The campaign, carried out by the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the province of South Kivu, has reached nearly 38 000 children between 6 months to 15 years. The emergency team has now moved on to the nearby area Kalonge. Moving in this environment is often very complicated as some areas can only be reached on foot or at most on motorcycle, and that makes it difficult to keep the necessary cold chain and to preserve the vaccines to be administered. In addition, various armed groups are active in the area and armed clashed make access to some remote spots even more complicated. Almost two thirds of those vaccinated, 23,257 of a total of 37,852 people, were children under five. More than half of the smaller children, almost 15,000, passed a basic test of malnutrition, known as MUAC, which measures the circumference of the arm, and nearly 500 of them had some degree of malnutrition. In Kalonge, always the province of South Kivu, MSF hopes to immunize at least another 65 thousand people in the next two weeks. At the end of 2012, an epidemic of measles had infected more than 700 children in the district of Bunyakiri, near Minova. The disease, especially in children, can be lethal if not treated immediately. It is very contagious and can cause complications such as pneumonia, malnutrition, severe dehydration, ear infections and eye infections that can even lead to blindness. A study conducted by Epicentre, the epidemiological MSF research center, indicates that between 2010 and 2013 almost 300 000 measles cases were registered in the DRC, of which two thirds were children under 5 years of age, and over 5000 patients died. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 28/07/2014)