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Financial Crisis Hinders Health Care Fight Against Measles Outbreak in the DRC

A mother with her child at the vaccination site of Etebe, in the health zone of Bolobo :: Photo: Franck Ngonga

By Ashok Ramsarup :: Concern has been expressed over the mounting outbreak of measles in seven years in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa.    International, independent medical humanitarian organisation  – Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has confirmed that  2 758 deaths and 145-thousand cases were reported since the beginning of the year.  

MSF says there’s an alarming lack of funding after the crisis was highlighted in June this year. The Health Cluster had raised an amount of only 2-point-5-million dollars, but a shortfall of 8-point-9-million dollars was needed to help with the health crisis in Kinshasa, which is the capital and the largest city of the DRC with a population of almost 12 million people.  

MSF Head of Missions in the DRC, Karel  Janssens said: “While there is a financial shortfall, but we are facing a bigger crisis as a rapid and adapted response is critical to limiting the impact of measles on the communities on the ground despite the absence of actors and flagrant lack of much-needed assistance.”

Janssens said unless there was a massive mobilisation of funds and response, MSF expressed concern that the outbreak could get even worse.

MSF teams were fighting measles together with the Health Ministry through regular projects and emergency interventions in 13 provinces of the country. 

Since January, MSF vaccinated 474,863 children aged between 6 months and 5 years. The human organisation also provided medical care for 27,439 patients.

MSF sent sending teams to new areas, including the Province of Mai-Ndombe, in the west of the country.  The organisation said an emergency team was deployed along the Kasai River, Bolobo and Nioki to limit the expansion of the epidemic.

MSF’s Field Coordinator of Measles Emergency Team – PIERRE VAN HEDDEGEM – said: “Just to bring vaccines to places where children need to be vaccinated is a huge task. It’s important to keep the vaccines within strict temperature limits, which means setting up a ‘cold chain’. “

Vann Heddegem said: “This requires refrigerators, generators, fuel and fast transportation, as well as a maintenance system as many health zones do not receive any support from other organisations.

“I appeal that there is a massive mobilisation of funds and response organisations to help in the fight in the scourge of the deadly measles outbreak.

Measles is a highly infectious respiratory disease that can result in severe, most often leading to permanent complications including pneumonia, brain damage and death. It is a contagious viral disease for which no treatment exists. The only way to fight it is through vaccination and treatment of the symptoms in the hope that the patient will be strong enough to naturally fight off the infection.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is also grappling with the world’s second largest Ebola epidemic. The World Health Organisation reported that more than 1,800 lives lost and 2,600 confirmed infections since the outbreak was declared a year ago. The outbreak is occurring in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa 🇿🇦

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