Measles outbreak on Sumba island, Indonesia

The measles outbreak on Sumba started in June this year. It spreads so quickly mainly because of the low vaccination coverage. The local health authority has not been able to respond timely to the problem, acknowledging that they lack the human resources, expertise and access to fuel needed for battling the outbreak.

Jakarta - The international humanitarian aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is preparing a massive measles vaccination campaign on the island of Sumba in Indonesia. The vaccination drive, organised together with health authorities in West Sumba and Jakarta, will target 170,000 children between six months and 15 years.

There are 20 vaccination teams ready to start vaccinating around the affected areas and then work their way inward towards the outbreak epicentre.

On August 24, MSF sent the first team, consisting of a medical doctor, a nurse and two logisticians, to West Sumba to investigate reports of a measles outbreak that had killed five people in the sub-district of Kodi. They soon found that the outbreak had already spread into six of West Sumba's 15 sub-districts.

This prompted MSF to start a three-months measles emergency project, integrating mobile clinic activities (case detection, management, and referral of children to health facilities) and a vaccination campaign.

Each mobile clinic team consists of a medical doctor, two nurses and a logistician, and are operating in six sub-districts. From September 1 to 9, the MSF teams provided 655 consultations where they found 102 active measles cases. The main other pathologies they have recorded are upper respiratory tract infections, skin infections, malnutrition and watery diarrhoea.

Since the beginning of the outbreak , the Ministry of Health has registered 1,168 measles cases; in Kodi Utara (980 cases); Kodi (79); Walandimu (17); Waimangura (20); Rada Mata (15); and Tena Teke (57). One more death was found, taking the initial measles death toll to six.

For the vaccination campaign, MSF needs over 200,000 vaccines, along with 22,000 high-protein biscuits, 125,000 Vitamin A tablets and other relevant medical materials.

Vitamin A builds the immune system. A long term defficiency of vitamin A can cause permanent blindness.

From Jakarta, MSF has sent around 5.5 metric tons of medical and logistical supplies by charter flight to Waingapu, the capital of East Sumba, from where they were trucked to Waikabubak to the west. An additional 7,5 metric tons of similar materials will be sent later during the emergency programme.

The measles outbreak on Sumba started in June this year. It spreads so quickly mainly because of the low vaccination coverage. The local health authority has not been able to respond timely to the problem, acknowledging that they lack the human resources, expertise and access to fuel needed for battling the outbreak.

MSF has so far deployed around 20 workers (doctors, nurses, logisticians) and intends to staff this mission with around 35 personnel in total.