Health in Africa

Health: Worst measles epidemic has hit the Democratic Republic of Congo killing over 6,000 people

Since June 2019, 310,000 Congolese have suffered the disease

Published: Thursday 09 January 2020

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is going through one of its worst health crisis. Since June 2019, the African country is in the grip of a deadly measles epidemic. According to World Health Organization (WHO), it has infected over 310,000 people so far, leaving more than 6,000 dead.

DRC's ministry of health, along with WHO and partner agencies, have vaccinated more than 18 million children below the age of five since 2019. But vaccination levels are low in some parts in the country; many patients are older than five.

“We are doing our utmost to bring this epidemic under control. Yet to be truly successful we must ensure that no child faces the unnecessary risk of death from a disease that is easily preventable by a vaccine. We urge our donor partners to urgently step up their assistance,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said.

Low vaccination coverage among vulnerable communities, malnutrition, a weak public health system, outbreaks of other epidemic-prone diseases, difficult access by vulnerable populations to health care and insecurity have been blamed for the spread of the disease in a WHO communique.

A shortage of funds have been pointed out as a major impediment in stopping the spread of measles. WHO has appealed for more funds to arrest the outbreak. $27.6 million has been mobilised, but another $40 million is needed in the next six months to implement proper ameliorative measures, including vaccinating  children between six and 14.

“We recognise the government’s engagement in the efforts to end the outbreak and we are grateful for the generosity of our donors. But we still need to do more,” said Amédée Prosper Djiguimdé, officer-in-charge of the WHO office in DRC. “Thousands of Congolese families need our help to lift the burden of this prolonged epidemic from their backs. We cannot achieve this without adequate finances.”

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