5,000 killed in DR Congo measles epidemic ‘mostly children’

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Health worker Nsiri Lowoso vaccinate three month old Zoe Nukandila as his mom, Arellete Ytshika, hold him, Saturday 10 Nov, 2018 at the Centre De Sante Le Rocher Maternity in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo. He was vaccinated against measles and rubella, tetanus and polio.

According to the World Health Organization, the  Democratic Republic of Congo is seeing the world’s biggest outbreak of measles. Of the 5000 people who have succumbed to the disease, the vast majority have been children.

A total of 250,270 cases of measles have been recorded as of November 17 with 5110 fatalities. This is more than double the toll taken by Ebola. More than 90% of the recorded fatalities were children aged 5 and younger.

 

The DRC declared an epidemic in September and have launched an emergency vaccination campaign. This should be completed by the end of 2019 according to the WHO.

Measles is highly contagious and violence and insecurity add to the factors that already hamper people from getting adequate healthcare. Children are especially vulnerable and the disease can have severe effects including blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, as well as severe respiratory infections.

Unicef’s  Edouard Beigbeder said: “While the Ebola outbreak, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives in the eastern DRC, has commanded sustained international attention, measles, which has claimed more than twice as many lives, continues to be underreported,”

The UN has now initiated training of Ebola teams in the DRC to manage the many cases of measles.

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