More than 23,000 people, most of them children have been infected by the measles in 2015 in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the United Nations and Doctors without borders, more than 400 have died from the virus, The New York Times reported.
One small village of just 500 people lost more than 30 children, all of whom were less than five-years-old, in a two month time span.
Augustin Ngoyi, the response coordinator for Doctors Without Borders said, “Their little graves are still visible in the cemetery.”
The epidemic began in February, but the central government in Kinshasa did not recognize the problem until early September and deaths have not been properly counted, Ngoyi said.
According to The New York Times, Doctors Without Borders has put tremendous effort into vaccinating children, who are the group most susceptible to the virus, and have succeeded in vaccinating about 300,000. However the process is difficult as two shots, weeks apart are need to protect a person fully, and the vaccine must be kept refrigerated.
A combination of poorly maintained railroads, fuel shortages and bad roads makes it problematic to deliver the vaccine to villages. Additionally, many children’s immune systems have already been compromised by malaria and malnutrition, said The New York Times.
The country’s southernmost region of Katanga is known for its cobalt and copper mines, but also has long record of trying to secede from the country, instigating clashes between the Congolese army and local militia groups.
Many people flee from their villages to escape the fighting and doctors have a hard time tracking them down to administer the vaccines.
Read more at i24news.tv.com