Outbreaks of measles and cholera in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo have killed hundreds of people, with thousands more infected, says an official of the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
“Since September 2010, 115,484 measles cases and 1,145 related deaths have been reported in South Kivu, Katanga, Maniema, Kasaï Occidental, Equateur, Bas Congo and Kasaï Oriental provinces,” Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO media and advocacy officer, told IRIN.
According to Jasarevic, a lack of government funding halted follow-up mass immunization activities in the regions, leading to the measles outbreak.
Close to six million children were vaccinated in the most affected areas in April and May, but the epidemic spread to other provinces not covered in the immunization campaign.
Mass immunization campaigns are planned. At least 915,000 children in nine provinces are targeted for vaccination in the first two campaigns scheduled for July.
WHO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are seeking an additional US$9 million to carry out these two campaigns in September and the first semester of 2012.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease, preventable by immunization. It can cause complications such as blindness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), severe diarrhoea, ear infections and pneumonia.
Some 1,449 cholera cases and 74 deaths have also been recorded since March in Kisangani, Orientale, with the outbreak spreading along the Congo River to Bandundu and Equateur provinces and to Kinshasa, the capital, Jasarevic said. As of 8 July, 3,245 cholera cases had been reported with 192 deaths.
The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) is supporting the DRC Red Cross in hygiene promotion activities in the affected provinces, according to a 13 July report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The health ministry and partners are also setting up water chlorination points and providing free cholera treatment to contain the outbreak, said Jasarevic.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the consumption of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Associated diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to severe dehydration and death without prompt treatment.
The DRC is also grappling with new cases of the wild polio virus, with a total of 62 cases recorded by 7 July, according to Victor Makwenge Kaput, the Minister of Public Health.
[Courtesy of IRIN]