Colombia: Over 10,000 people vaccinated against measles by MSF in Santa Marta district

Preoccupation due to lack of amodiaquine for malaria epidemic in Narino Department.
Bogota - Around 10,000 people - children and adults under 35 years of age - are being vaccinated against measles in rural areas of Santa Marta district, Magdalena Department, by the international humanitarian aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The measles vaccination campaign is being run after four cases were confirmed in Nueva Granada, Magdalena Department, and a sanitary emergency was declared in the Department in late February. The objective is to prevent the outbreak from reaching bigger proportions. "Our aim is to get a 100% vaccination coverage among those under-35 years-old," explains Carlos Ayala, MSF's Medical Co-ordinator. "It has been decided to vaccinate young adults because the latest measles epidemics in Latin America have affected this population group and in Nueva Granada a case was confirmed in a 28 year old woman, mother of a child also suffering from measles." Two MSF teams, made up of a doctor, three nurses and two logisticians, are running the vaccination campaign in 28 communities in Santa Marta district that has a very extensive rural area and very scattered population. The two-week vaccination campaign is expected to finish on March 23. This MSF intervention responds to a petition by the Ministry of Health and the Health Secretary to support the vaccination campaign in rural areas. Depending on the communities, vaccinations are done in collaboration with local health promoters. On the other hand, MSF is worried for the lack of amodiaquine to treat malaria patients in Narino Department. Since a year ago, ten municipalities on the Pacific Coast of this Department are being affected by a malaria epidemic, presenting cases of proven resistance to cloroquine. During 2001, this epidemic took the lives of 24 people and affected over 30,000 people. Since the beginning of 2002, the epidemic has taken the lives of seven people. In Colombia, where MSF has been present since 1985, the organisation runs primary healthcare projects that include health promotion and prevention activities, hygiene education, vaccination, mother and child healthcare and malaria prevention. Basic water and sanitation activities are also carried out. MSF is an international medical organisation of humanitarian aid assisting vulnerable populations and victims of natural or man-made disasters regardless race, religion, creed or political affiliation.