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28.11.2019 Europe

5,000 killed in DRC measles epidemic 'mostly children'

NOV 28, 2019 EUROPE

Five thousand people have died of measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo since January in what has become the world's biggest outbreak of the disease, the World Health Organization says.

As of November 17, a total of 250,270 measles cases had been recorded, including 5,110 deaths – more than double the toll in the country's Ebola epidemic.

An official from the UN children's fund said more than 90 percent of deaths were in children aged under 5.

In June, the DRC declared a measles epidemic and in September an emergency vaccination campaign was launched. The WHO expects vaccinations to be completed by the end of the year.

Violence and insecurity as well as lack of access to healthcare have left thousands of children vulnerable to the highly contagious disease.

“While the Ebola outbreak, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives in the eastern DRC, has commanded sustained international attention, measles, which has claimed more than twice as many lives, continues to be underreported,” said Unicef's Edouard Beigbeder.

The UN has reportedly begun training some Ebola teams in the DRC to manage cases of the measles, which can cause blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.