The measles epidemic raging since the beginning of the year in Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the deadliest ever to emerge in the country and continues to grow. Since June, MSF has treated more than 20,000 patients and vaccinated more than 300,000 children, but the geography of Katanga in the southeast of the country, prevents us to reach all populations.

Difficult access to health centers, insecurity, vaccine refrigeration problems, impassable roads… Vaccination against measles is effective, but the barriers to Katanga child immunization campaigns are numerous.

“Katanga is an area about as large as France and there a third of the territory is currently affected by a measles epidemic which began earlier this year, says Jean-Guy Vataux, head of mission for Doctors without borders in the DRC. This is an extremely poor area where the transport infrastructure in particular are extremely low and it requires substantial resources to reach people, to care and especially to vaccinations. The efforts made by the Congolese government, by medical NGOs to improve immunization coverage in such large, difficult to access and poor areas like Katanga, for now, have not worked and that is why we face measles epidemics every four or five years, like this year. Much of the population has no access to health centers, so children will do an episode of measles, but as they can not seek treatment in a health center, they will pass through the monitoring system. In this region, in general, it is malaria that causes the most deaths, which now joins measles. ”

Releasing funds rapidly

Child malnutrition, frequent in the province, make the children even more vulnerable to diseases such as measles. It is therefore urgent to launch a massive vaccination campaign. An operation planned by the Congolese Ministry of Health, but funds are sorely lacking and time is running out according to Dr. Susan Sheperd of the medical NGO Alima who has just spent ten days in Katanga. “The fear is that we will not have enough funding to act quickly, she worried. The rains will come and we will have impassable roads and we won’t be able to vaccinate children. The second fear is that measles knows no borders. So if we do not stop the epidemic in Katanga, it will continue to spread around the country and even in neighboring countries. ”

She calls on donors to take action to unlock the necessary funds to cope with a growing epidemic. Since January, nearly 24 000 cases of measles were reported, including 350 deaths. These figures are probably understated given the difficulty to access the sick.

Read the article at: