from JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – MORE than 5 000 children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have died from measles almost a year after the disease erupted in the country.
The children are a majority (85) percent of the 6 200 Congolese that have died from the disease that is also affecting the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad.
With 332 000 cases confirmed since June last year, the outbreak in the DRC is the worst in history.
It continues claiming lives while international attention is focused on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 61 Congolese from 1 369 infected.
DRC is also battling an Ebola epidemic that has killed over 2 000 people since August 2018.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have been responding to the measles epidemic in all three countries.
They are providing outbreak response vaccination, and treating children for the disease and for other illnesses such as malnutrition.
The efforts continue despite logistical and security challenges posed by terror groups.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest setback distracting the response of governments, donors and other health organisations.
Emmanuel Lampaert, MSF operations coordinator in DRC, said such setbacks increased the risk of measles continuing to spread and killing more children.
“COVID-19 will sow the seeds of other health crises,” he warned.
Chad’s measles outbreak has been raging since May 2018. CAR declared its measles outbreak in January this year.
While the exact death toll and number of cases could not be ascertained, MSF said the measles outbreaks had thousands of children and killed thousands more other people.
– CAJ News