18 May 2019

Nigeria: Measles Kill 58 in Borno

Photo: Marie Frechon/UN
A staff member of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) vaccinates a child against measles in a refugee camp.

Maiduguri — Médecines Sans Frontières (MSF), popularly known as Doctors Without Borders on Friday revealed that 58 people had been killed by measles in Borno State since January.

It said this was part of the growing toll of death recorded worldwide.

MSF, in a statement said the ongoing measles outbreak was partly due to insufficient routine vaccination and immunisation against measles which was putting thousands of children at risk of getting infected.

The statement quoted Dr. Theresa Chan, MSF's medical team leader in Gwange Hospital, Maiduguri as saying: "We are all working in crowded wards," and "the enthusiasm exhibited by the staff is the reason why we've been able to cope so far."

The statement said: "In the West of Maiduguri, MSF is also caring for measles patients in its Gwange Hospital. In four months from January to April, MSF teams have treated 2,343 children with measles. And the number of cases in April was four times higher than in January. There are so many patients that the 73- isolation-beds are full.

"A three-year-old girl was brought to Gwange by her mother," the statement said, and the mother explained that: "She started sneezing and had a high fever. The inside of her lips turned red and she was constantly vomiting. I was so worried and I thought she was going to die."

But after receiving treatment, for close to a month, she made good recovery, and her mother, joyful and grateful took her home, according to the statement.

Her case was one of the success story but many were not so fortunate, according to the statement: "Some children die from measles due to severe complications. In both SSH and Gwange Hospital, MSF has recorded 58 deaths since January. But it's only part of the global death toll."

Caroline Masunda, MSF medical team leader in Maiduguri, said: "It is unacceptable that there still is a high number of children passing away from such a treatable disease. Though stretched to the limits, we could not turn away the children."

She lamented that this has "brought a lot of loss and a lot of sadness to the community. To encourage uptake of services and limit the number of complicated cases that increase the mortality rate, the population should have access to free primary health care in Maiduguri."

The MSF therefore called for better and swift coordination between all actors including Nigerian authorities, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations in availing and providing routine vaccination to children across northeastern Nigeria in order to protect them against measles and prevent future outbreaks.

MSF has been working in Nigeria since 1996 and has had a permanent presence in Borno state since 2014. MSF teams provide lifesaving medical care in northeastern Nigeria, running projects in Gwoza, Maiduguri, Monguno, Ngala, and Pulka, while MSF emergency teams respond to disease outbreaks and other urgent humanitarian needs.

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