Friday, May 24, 2013
Today from Hiiraan Online:
Somalia: measles takes its toll
Friday, March 09, 2012
Measles is sweeping unchecked through parts of southern Somalia. The number of measles cases at MSF clinics has sharply increased in recent weeks, with many patients arriving in a severley ill condition.
Children at risk
The disease is highly contagious and unvaccinated children are at great risk, especially if they are also malnourished.
The war in southern Somalia is a key factor contributing to ongoing widespread malnutrition, low vaccination coverage and lack of access to healthcare services.
All of these factors aggravate the spread and severity of diseases like measles.
"Over the last weeks, we diagnosed and treated over 300 patients for measles – mainly children – in the towns of Haramka and Marere in Lower Juba Valley," said Silvia Colona, MSF's Project Coordinator for South Somalia.
"We also set up a measles-treatment unit the city of Kismayo last week, and it filled up immediately with critically ill children."
Left untreated measles is often deadly, especially for young children, but with adequate medical care most survive.
"I knew this was measles," said one mother who brought her child to the MSF measles treatment center in Kismayo, "but I did not know where to treat my child until my relatives informed me of this measles camp."
Unfortunately, lack of awareness and insecurity are probably preventing many others from getting treated.
"We think this is only the tip of the iceberg," added Ms. Colona, "and that there are many more people with measles who can't make it to our facilities."
Preventable with vaccination
Measles is easily and cheaply prevented with vaccination, but vaccination coverage is very low in most parts of Somalia. Logistical and security challenges are not the only reason for this.
MSF still awaits permission from authorities in several locations to conduct measles vaccination campaigns.
If permission is granted, vaccination would become a high priority for MSF and would prevent numerous unnecessary deaths.
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