Meningitis outbreak contained in western Tanzania

News and Press Release
Originally published
Kibondo, Tanzania - Sep 26, 2002 - The International Rescue Committee has completed a mass vaccination campaign to stem an outbreak of meningitis in Kibondo District in western Tanzania.
IRC-led teams carried out vaccinations in five refugee camps and in the local community over a four-day period, between September 20 and 23. More than 141,000 Burundian refugees, over 98 percent of those who registered, and more than 94,000 Tanzanians from 23 nearby villages were vaccinated. Some 1,100 staff members from aid groups working in the region were also immunized.

Health coordinators from UNHCR, UNICEF and the local aid group UMATI helped supervise the vaccination teams.

The vaccinations concluded a five-step IRC program that included registering the target population; identifying vaccination sites and teams, training the identified teams; and publicizing the campaign to the refugee and local communities.

IRC Health Coordinator Amey Kounowou led the vaccination team training and community mobilization efforts. Community-based IRC staff members worked with Radio Kwizera to inform the target population about the meningitis outbreak, the vaccination campaign and sites and dates for vaccinations.

"Aside from the vaccination campaign, we're also working to boost local capacity to respond to future outbreaks," said Dr. Amey. "We've been conducting trainings for health workers in the camps and local community on recognition of symptoms and proper case management. This kind of training has helped ensure a low case fatality rate."

The outbreak was first detected in July and the IRC has been responding since the outset. To date, there have been a total of 256 reported cases in the Kibondo area. Dr. Amey says the case fatality rate has remained at a fairly low 5.8%.

The IRC has also been conducting community prevention activities. Among them, the IRC chairs weekly task force meetings at Nduta and Karago Camps on prevention techniques, such as limiting camp population movement and overcrowding.

A final report on the vaccination activities was issued to Kibondo community leaders on September 24 and was shared with all partners in the campaign, including UNICEF, UNHCR and the Tanzanian health ministry. "Coordination was very good during each step of the campaign," said Dr. Amey. "Thanks to our joint efforts, the outbreak was far less severe than it could have been."