The world’s largest measles outbreak has killed more than 4,000 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this year, according to UNICEF.
The agency found that 203,179 measles cases have been reported throughout the country’s 26 provinces since January, according to UNICEF, including 4,096 deaths. Seventy-four percent of infections and nearly 90 percent of deaths have been children under the age of five.
- Even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available, in 2017, there were 110 000 measles deaths globally, mostly among children under the age of five.
- Measles vaccination resulted in a 80% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2017 worldwide.
- In 2017, about 85% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000.
- During 2000-2017, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths making measles vaccine one of the best buys in public health.
The measles outbreak in the DRC is attributable to low immunization rates due to the country’s weak public health infrastructure. According to the UNICEF:
“We’re facing this alarming situation because millions of Congolese children miss out on routine immunization and lack access to health care when they fall sick,” said Beigbeder. “On top of that, a weak health system, insecurity, community mistrust of vaccines and vaccinators and logistical challenges all contribute to a huge number of unvaccinated children at risk of contracting the disease.”
Two doses of the measles vaccine are recommended and roughly 95 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated to ensure immunity and prevent outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization. In DRC, measles immunization coverage was only 57 per cent in 2018.
Emergencies like these are reminders of the unfinished business of state-building in most of the Continent, and not just post-conflict states the DRC.