Some 3.1 million children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been vaccinated against measles in a United Nations-coordinated campaign to combat the disease outbreak which has claimed the lives of 1,145 children since the start of this year.
The measles epidemic affected a total of 115,600 children between January and June, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a press release issued yesterday, adding that the vaccination campaign was funded with $1.9 million.
The campaign, which kicked off on 10 May, was coordinated by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) in the provinces of Katanga, Kasai Occidental, Bas-Congo, Equateur and Orientale.
“The funding – equivalent to 61 cents per child – helped protect the health of millions of children,” said Fidèle Sarassoro, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for DRC. “We thank our partners and urge them to continue supporting us, especially now that DRC is facing other epidemics, including cholera in the west of the country,” said Mr. Sarassoro.
Some 5,407 cases of measles were reported in DRC last year, causing 82 deaths, compared to 899 cases, including 26 fatalities, in 2009.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease, which mostly affects children. It is transmitted through droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Initial symptoms, which usually appear between eight to 12 days after infection, include high fever, a running nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. A rash then develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading to the rest of the body.
In malnourished children and people with reduced immunity, the disease can cause serious complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, ear infection, pneumonia and even death.