Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is supporting the Sudanese Ministry of Health (MoH) to respond to a measles outbreak in parts of Sudan. In North Darfur, a mass vaccination was launched at the end of March, 2015 to stem the outbreak and increase the immunisation coverage in the population.
To date, MSF and the MoH teams have vaccinated over 77,690 people, and provided vitamin A to over 3,000, children under the age of five in Jebel Amir, El Sireaf town, Gharra, Medises, Um Jarwa, and Jabkalla in El Sireaf locality. Vitamin A further boosts the immune systems of children who have already received the measles vaccine. MSF teams are continuing to monitor the situation in different parts of North Darfur.
In West Darfur, MSF is supporting the health authorities in the management of measles cases. MSF and the MoH teams are providing treatment at two isolation centres in El Geneina hospital in the adult and paediatric wards, as well as running mobile clinics to proactively identify and treat those infected without associated health complications and refer those in critical condition to the hospital. The mobile clinics cover all the eight localities of West Darfur. Between 15 March and 14 April, MSF and the MoH teams treated 133 patients in the isolation wards and 366 in mobile clinics.
There is little knowledge among the population about the causes, symptoms and treatment of the disease, which has led MSF in partnership with the MoH to increase community health education activities in both North and West Darfur states, two of the most affected states. The aim is to prevent the spread of the disease and encourage people to seek medical assistance early enough to minimise the risk of death.
“The outbreak in North Darfur is of particular concern because it not only affects children but adults as well. In fact, most of those we are treating, and who have died, are adults. This is why we aim at reaching entire populations in North Darfur state with the vaccination campaign,” said Dr Amir Ali Osman, MSF’s deputy medical coordinator in Sudan.
In January this year, MSF also supported the MoH in conducting a mass vaccination campaign in two out of the five affected localities in Gedaref state. In Gedaref and Mid Gedaref locality, a total of 266,675 children between 6 months and 15 years old were vaccinated. Additionally, 233 children were treated by three MSF mobile clinic teams in different localities of Gedaref state.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease, which affects everyone but can have serious consequences in the case of children. There is no direct treatment to combat the measles virus; however the complications can be treated to reduce mortality. For malnourished children and people with reduced immunity, measles can cause serious complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, ear infection and pneumonia.
MSF started working in Darfur in 1985. MSF is a medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation. Currently, MSF is working in Sudan in North and West Darfur states, White Nile state and Gedaref state.