DRC: Children who survived measles are now suffering from malnutrition and malaria

An article from Medcins Sans Frontieres
February 24, 2016
As the measles epidemic gradually fades in the Tanganyika province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, malaria and malnutrition often form a deadly combination for children. In order to face this situation, MSF – in collaboration with the Congolese Ministry of Health – continues to support the Manono health zone for the management of severe acute malnutrition and pediatric emergencies and is opening a similar project in Kabalo.
"In a region where supplies to treat severe acute malnutrition are constantly out of stock, leaving after the measles epidemic amounted to abandoning the malnourished children to their fate, especially those who had survived measles," says Narcisse Wega, an MSF emergency coordinator. Indeed, more than half of the 2,345 children being taken care of in the ambulatory therapeutic feeding centres of the Manono health zone were affected by measles in the previous month.
"Measles destabilized an already fragile nutritional situation, with very diverse local dynamics," explains Narcisse. "In the mining areas, ore prices fell by half; some villages are isolated because of their ethnic composition; other pockets suffer from the poor variety of their diet, sometimes composed exclusively of cassava; persisiting traditions such as the replacement of breastmilk with other foods also play a part."
In the Manono health area, the organization supports 27 health centres with medicines and diagnostic tests for malaria, and opened ambulatory therapeutic feeding centres in more than fifteen remote health areas which are extremely difficult to access. A system is also in place to ensure the coverage of the remaining health centres. Awareness sessions are organized in villages and active case detection is set up in the community through community relays.
In these isolated villages, a transfer system of motorcycles and canoes has been put into place to allow children in serious conditions to be hospitalized. "Functional and free transportation are essential for medical emergencies to reach hospital," says Narcisse.
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