A Measles Outbreak That Killed Over 7,000 Children in the DRC Is Officially Over
This news is a health victory for the country that is also tackling COVID-19.
The announcement is a massive victory for the country, where the outbreak of the highly deadly and contagious disease — which first began in July 2018 — claimed the lives of more than 7,000 children under 5 over the last two years.
"For a month now, we are able to say that this epidemic has been eliminated across our territory," said Dr. Eteni Longondo, the DRC's minister of health. "We can say that measles [in the DRC] no longer exists."
Highlighting the terrible impact of measles, particularly on younger children, the minister added: "The measles epidemic was quietly unfolding at [a] low level, but was the most deadly. It killed more than 7,000 of our children."
In response to the measles outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) undertook a vaccination campaign in the country alongside Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in 2019. These efforts reached more than 18 million children under the age of 5 — an age group that accounts for 25% of the disease's victims.
The WHO highlights, however, that routine immunization is still difficult to provide in some remote areas of the country.
The DRC's Ministry of Health says it will ensure that these routine vaccinations continue — with the aim of preventing the emergence of new epidemic peaks, which it says are "periodic."
The end of the measles outbreak follows another significant health victory for Africa this week, with the WHO announcing the total eradication of the wild poliovirus in Africa on Tuesday.
Last week, however, the WHO expressed its concern about the "worrying evolution" of the Ebola epidemic in northwestern DRC, where more than 100 cases and 43 deaths have been reported since its outbreak in June.
At the same time, the country is also tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, with a total of 9,841 cases reported by the WHO as of Aug. 26. The minister of health has been accused of misappropriating funds allocated to fighting COVID-19 and has reportedly defended himself by assuring that "nothing" has been misappropriated.