DRC Measles Epidemic: Approaching 1,000 Deaths

DRC Measles Epidemic: Approaching 1,000 Deaths

Kanako Mita and Noriko Watanabe

Modern Tokyo Times

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is blighted by ethnic, political, and religious conflict. At the same time, measles epidemics are all too common in the DRC – while other health issues kill vast numbers each year.

In early 2023, it is apparent that the DRC is on course for a higher measles crisis than in 2022. Last year, 148,000 cases were reported – compared to 78,000 in the first 4 months of 2023. Also, the death toll in 2022 of 1,875 people from measles looks set to be higher in 2023: in the first four months of 2023, 900 have died. Therefore, the death toll is likely to be over 1,000 already in the first five months of 2023.

Between 2018 and 2020, the death toll from measles was 8,000 after 460,000 children contracted this disease in the DRC.

In January, the regions of Lomami, Lualaba, Maniema, North Kivu, South Kivu, and Tshopo had reported outbreaks. Since then, the same is continuing.

The conflict in the DRC is hindering vaccination programs – and is putting severe pressure on the weak infrastructure. 5.8 million people are now internally displaced in the DRC because of war. At the same time, over 1 million people fleeing regional conflicts have entered the DRC to burden an already horrendous situation further.

UN News reports – despite 5.8 million people being displaced in the DRC – “It is also one of UNHCR’s most underfunded operations worldwide. For 2023, UNHCR is asking for $232.6 million to assist internally displaced people and refugees in the DRC. As of today, the DRC operation is only eight percent funded.”

Accordingly, vast resources are being spent on caring for people who have been internally displaced. The conflict is also making it harder to reach children who need vaccinations. This notably applies to areas blighted by war including North Kivu and Ituri – and the spreading chaos to parts of South Kivu.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports: “As of 16 April, the country had registered at least 78,396 new cases and 921 deaths, compared to 148,638 cases and 1,875 deaths recorded in 2022. 23 out of the 26 provinces are at epidemic stage. The hardest hit provinces are South and North Kivu (19,702 and 19,385 cases, respectively).” 

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