DR Congo

4,500 children under the age of five died from measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo so far this year

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FILE PHOTO: Health worker Nsiri Lowoso vaccinate three month old Zoe Nukandila as his mom, Arellete Ytshika, hold him, Saturday 10 Nov, 2018 at the Centre De Sante Le Rocher Maternity in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo. He was vaccinated against measles and rubella, tetanus and polio. © UNICEF/UN0328788/Prinsloo

Statement by UNICEF Representative in the DRC Edouard Beigbeder

KINSHASA, 27 November 2019 - “Since the beginning of the year, more than 5,000 people have died due to measles, over 90 per cent of them children under the age of five.

“While the Ebola outbreak, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives in the Eastern DRC, has commanded sustained international attention, measles, which has claimed more than twice as many lives, continues to be underreported.

“Violence and insecurity, lack of access to healthcare and shortages of vaccines and medical kits in the worst-affected areas have meant that thousands of children have missed out on vaccinations, with potentially deadly consequences. Cultural beliefs and traditional healthcare practices also often get in the way of vaccinating children against measles and treating those with symptoms.

“Despite the many challenges, we have the tools and the knowledge to prevent measles with a safe, effective and affordable vaccine. The key is to reach every single child, no matter where they are.

“UNICEF and partners are conducting measles vaccination campaigns in the worst-affected areas and supplying clinics with medicine to treat symptoms. So far, we have distributed 1,317 medical measles kits - containing antibiotics, rehydration salts, Vitamin A and other medicines - to affected health zones to treat children with complications.

“Yet these measures can only ever be a short-term solution, as significant investment in strengthening DRC’s national vaccination programme and wider health care systems is crucial to guarantee the health and wellbeing of the country’s children.”

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