DRC groans as measles epidemic adds to Ebola

12Jun 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
DRC groans as measles epidemic adds to Ebola

HEALTH officials in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are battling a public health crisis on two fronts following the outbreak of a measles epidemic, apart from Ebola.

The DRC’s health ministry said on Monday that it had recorded 87,000 suspected cases of measles since the start of the year, a week after it announced that cases of Ebola had reached 2,000 in the last 10 months.

The measles outbreak is illustrated by cases reported in 23 out of DRC's 26 provinces, rife in both rural and urban areas.

Experts say that measles, while highly contagious, is preventable with the right vaccines.

However, the disease has repeatedly flared in DRC in recent years due to poor infrastructure, insecurity and an under-equipped public health system.

Measles is believed to have killed more than 1,500 people in DRC since the beginning of this year, most victims being children under five.

Sources within the country's vaccination programme said they are currently raising funds to organise a preventive vaccination campaign to stop the spread of the virus to as yet unaffected areas.

More than two million children were vaccinated against measles in April and another 1.4 million are being targeted by a campaign that will start in the next few days in health zones with measles cases.

In a statement, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders warned that this measles epidemic risks being the deadliest since its strong resurgence in 2011-2012.

Meanwhile, Tanzania is set to embark on a fresh measles and rubella vaccination in September after it emerged that a huge number of children did not complete earlier jabs.

The jabs missed and new ones will be administered in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to children aged between nine months and five years.

Speaking in Dar es Salaam in April during the commemoration of World Immunization Week, the WHO immunization advisor in Tanzania, Dr William Mwengee said the target was to achieve 95 percent coverage in all districts to prevent any outbreak and provide enhanced immunity in the various communities.

Commenting on the global trend, he said measles cases have continued to climb in 2019, with preliminary global data showing that reported cases rose by 300 percent in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018.

He said the WHO African Region has recorded a 700 percent increase, the region of the Americas 60 percent, the European region 300 percent while the Eastern Mediterranean saw a 100 percent increase in cases. A 40 percent increase was registered in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, he specified.

Currently, the RDC, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine had rising contagion causing many deaths mostly among young children, the UN agency added.

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