MSF starts measles vaccination campaign in Darfur’s Jebel Marra
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) last week launched an urgent measles vaccination campaign to contain a rapidly growing number of cases in Jebel Marra in Darfur.
MSF aims to vaccinate 95 per cent of the children between nine months and 15 years old in the area, and to provide them with vitamin A supplements as part of its malnutrition prevention and treatment plan, the international organisation reported on Thursday.
Since July, hundreds of suspected cases of measles have been reported across the Jebel Marra massive. MSF received the first suspected measles patient at its Kalo Kitting clinic on 17 July. By 7 August, MSF’s clinics had received 849 children with suspected measles, of whom 824 were under the age of five years. Eleven children died of the disease.
Jebel Marra is under the control of the mainstream Sudan Liberation Movement under the leadership of Abdelwahid El Nur (SLA-AW), one of the few remaining armed groups that did not sign the Juba Peace Agreement with the Sudanese government last October. For this reason, the Jebel Marra region has not been accessible for routine national immunisation campaigns for many years.
“We are receiving babies with measles under the age of nine months, which indicates that their mothers have also never been vaccinated,” says Anna Bylund, MSF project coordinator in Jebel Marra. “We are now in a race against time to halt the spread of this deadly illness.”
The situation is particular acute as children in Jebel Marra are already suffering as a result of widespread malnutrition and food insecurity. Of 1,594 children screened for malnutrition up to 7 August, MSF found 220 children with moderate acute malnutrition and 71 with severe acute malnutrition.
With the Sudanese authorities barred from the area, MSF is one of the few organisations able to operate fully in southern Jebel Marra, the statement reads.
“Consequently, as decided with the Ministry of Health and other involved actors, MSF will be leading the vaccination campaign and case management in close collaboration with the local community. MSF will be collaborating closely with the Ministry of Health, who has trained the vaccinators and registrars, and who will have a team in Kalo Kitting supporting data collection and rollout. MSF’s network of community health workers have also been trained to recognise and refer cases of measles and malnutrition.”
“This vaccination and treatment campaign would not be possible without the collaboration of the whole community,” said Jean-Nicolas Dangelser, MSF Head of Mission.
“The people of Jebel Marra are supporting in every aspect of the campaign, from transport to community outreach and sensitisation, as well as alerting MSF to suspected cases. It’s been incredible to see how committed the local community is to preventing the further spread of measles,” he stated.
“We hope this vaccination campaign will be the first of several to protect the people of Jebel Marra from further outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases,” Bylund said.
The director of the Emergency and Epidemiology Department of the Sudanese Ministry of Health reported on August 3 that 600 cases of measles were recorded among children under 12 years old in South Darfur. He said the Ministry sent 88,000 doses of measles vaccine to the area.
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