By James Tasamba
KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) - The Democratic Republic of Congo has recorded up to 6,113 cases of measles, including 73 deaths, in South Kivu province since January this year, health authorities said Wednesday.
“The cases were recorded in different health zones in the province. Unfortunately, we have already lost 73 children since the beginning of the year because of this disease,” Claude Bahizire, head of communication at South Kivu’s provincial directorate of health, told reporters.
Last week, 874 cases of measles were recorded across the country with 15 deaths.
The Fizi Health Zone remains the epicenter of the disease, with 382 cases and five deaths, followed by the Lamera Health Zone with 229 cases and one death and Itombwe with 93 cases and nine deaths, but the health zones of Nundu and Ruzizi are also affected, added Bahizire.
He said provincial health authorities continue to supply health zones with medicines and other necessary inputs.
Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) warned that an increase in measles cases in January and February this year is a worrying sign of a heightened risk for the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases which could trigger larger outbreaks, particularly of measles affecting millions of children.
They noted that pandemic-related disruptions, increasing inequalities in access to vaccines and the diversion of resources from routine immunization are leaving too many children without protection against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
Around 17,338 measles cases were reported worldwide in January and February this year, compared to 9,665 during the first two months of 2021, according to the WHO.
Besides its direct effect on the body, which can be lethal, the measles virus weakens the immune system, making a child more vulnerable to other infectious diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea.