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Cholera in Niger, measles in C.A.R. threaten children

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The United Nations is keen on stemming the tide of an outbreak of diseases in two African nations. With the sudden introduction of measles in Niger and the measles in the Central African Republic, officials hope to spring into action before an epidemic breaks out in these infrastructure-compromised areas.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - In the Central African Republic, a recent rebellion against the former regime of Francois Bozize has taken a heavy toll on children. Eight children tested positive for measles last month in the capital of Bangui.

The collapse of law and order in C.A.R. has led to a breakdown of basic health services, increasing the risk of disease outbreaks.

Even before the beginning of the conflict, only 62 percent of C.A.R.'s children were vaccinated for measles. The low vaccination rate, coupled with poor living conditions is putting many children's health at risk.

UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says that they are working alongside the C.A.R. Ministry of Health is aiming to reach and protect 125,000 children from measles during the emergency vaccination campaign this week in Bangui.

"The campaign represents an important first step in efforts by the Ministry of Health and Partners to re-establish measles immunization across the country. Outside of Bangui where UNICEF and others were able to provide fuel to keep health centers operational, the entire cold chain system has broken down," Mercado said. "Health centers have been looted - including fridges and solar panels - and health staff has yet to return to their posts. The vaccination drive is possible because of a slight improvement in security in Bangui in recent weeks." 

Vaccines have since been distributed to all of Bangui's eight districts, and hundreds of vaccinators and other health workers are now in place. In addition, she said district-by-district drives are being planned immediately after the Bangui campaign.

In the West African country of Niger, the government declared earlier this month declared that the nation was in the grip of a cholera epidemic. The disease has left seven people dead in the western part of the country, including two Malian refugees.

The two refugees, a 45-year-old man and a three-year old boy died, after arriving at a health center in Niger at a late stage of the disease. Both were refugees in the Mangaize camp, which hosts 15,000 in the Tillaberi region, including refugees from Mali.

"So, UNHCR and partners are taking measures not only inside the refugee camp, but also in the community. The contamination came, as cholera typically does, through the consumption of contaminated water, we believe, from the nearby river," UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.


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