Over 106,870 suspected measles cases have been reported in Republic of the Congo since 10 June and the Minister of Health declared a measles epidemic. There have been a sharp acceleration in the measles cases this year, representing a 700% increase in measles notifications compared to the same period in 2018. All 26 provinces have reported suspected measles cases.
Since 2001, DRC has been implementing strategies to reduce measles deaths. The government has intensified routine immunization activities – the best long-term solution to prevent measles outbreaks – and conducted measles immunization campaigns in three phases, the last one from August 2016 to February 2017. Though DRC has taken measures to prevent measles deaths, tremendous challenges have derailed their efforts, including insecurity, inaccessibility to vaccination sites, availability of vaccine at health facility, intense movements of populations, and the existence of groups resistant to vaccination.
Additional response activities are being urgently conducted to stop the current epidemic. With national and international partners, the DRC Government is implementing mass immunization campaigns, improving the medical management of measles cases in health facilities, and strengthening disease surveillance. The Measles and Rubella Initiative (M&RI), a global partnership to lead and coordinate efforts to achieve a world without measles and rubella, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, have provided financial and technical assistance to the Ministry of Health for a mass immunization campaign in April 2019 that reached more than 2.1 million children aged 6 to 59 months in 72 health zones. A second mass immunization campaign that will target more than 1.4 million more children across another 39 health zones is in planning with a date to be determined. In October 2019, a nationwide mass immunization campaign will be conducted that will target 18 million children aged 6 to 59 months.
The declaration of the measles epidemic by the DRC Minister of Health highlights the high number of suspected measles cases and deaths, and underscores the efforts the authorities have been making to protect the population through measles vaccination.
About the Measles & Rubella Initiative
The Measles & Rubella Initiative is a global partnership committed to ensuring no child dies from measles or is born with congenital rubella syndrome. M&RI is led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.