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Measles and Cholera Kill Hundreds, Infect Hundreds of Thousands in DRC

Immunization campaigns planned for children in nine provinces this month

The World Health Organization says outbreaks of measles and cholera have killed hundreds of people in parts of the DRC, with many more infected.

The agency says since September 2010, it has registered more than 100,000 cases of the viral disease. They’re concentrated in the provinces of South Kivu, Katanga, Maniema, Kasai Occidental, Equateur, Bas Congo and Kasai Oriental.

Measles and Cholera Kill Hundreds, Infect Hundreds of Thousands in DRC
Measles and Cholera Kill Hundreds, Infect Hundreds of Thousands in DRC

The outbreak was officially announced in April and immunization campaigns are being supported by WHO, UNICEF, MSF and the Ministry of Health of the DRC’s ministry of health.

“The outbreak began (because) a follow-up of mass immunization campaigns in these regions were halted because of the lack of funding,” said Tarik Jasarevic, the media and advocacy officer for Health Action in Crises for the WHO in Geneva. “There has to be a follow-up immunization campaign and because it could not be done, we have seen outbreaks progressing and spreading from one province to another.”

The first mass immunization campaign began in April and May, he said. “At that particular time, close to six million children were vaccinated in the most affected areas,” but since then “the epidemic has spread to other provinces that were not covered by this vaccination.”

A new campaign began this month in the DRC that will target close to a million children in nine provinces.

In addition to the measles outbreak, cholera has also been recorded in the DRC and Jasarevic said 3,646 cases have been found, with 242 recorded deaths so far.

“The first cases have been recorded in Kisangani, Orientale Province, with the outbreak spreading along the Congo River to Bandundu and Equateur provinces and to Kinshasa, the capital,” said Jasarevic.

The Ministry of Health, along with the WHO and other health partners, are organizing hygiene promotional activities that include chlorination and free cholera treatment to contain the outbreak.