‘More deaths than Ebola’: Measles outbreak hits DRC
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More than 5,000 people, mainly children, have died in what is currently the world’s biggest measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday.
The outbreak has hit as the country struggles to deal with an Ebola epidemic, which itself has claimed 2,200 lives. But while the Ebola crisis has received widespread international attention, the measles outbreak has made few headlines despite a higher death toll.
“Right now the DRC outbreak is the largest outbreak worldwide,” said Kate O'Brien, director of the WHO's Immunization and Vaccines Department.
“And we estimate, the country estimates that there have been as I said over 250,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths attributable to measles, which of course is more than Ebola, substantially more than Ebola and most of these are children and babies," she added.
DRC has launched an emergency vaccination campaign to counter the outbreak, while the WHO says it has begun training some of its Ebola teams in DRC to also manage measles cases.
But efforts to tackle both diseases are being hampered by violence and unrest in the country and overnight Wednesday three Ebola workers were reportedly killed in clashes in the east of the country.
The WHO also withdrew 49 of its Ebola-response staff from the eastern town of Beni earlier this week because of fighting that has claimed the lives of 94 civilians.