MSF battles meningitis epidemic in Chad

In total, 16 mobile teams will cover the two regions with each team vaccinating up to 1,000 people per day.
This weekend Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) will be launching a meningitis vaccination campaign to fight an epidemic of meningitis A that has broken out in northeast Chad. The vaccination effort, covering 200,000 people, will take place in the Iriba and Guéréda districts, already hosting tens of thousands of refugees who have fled the war-torn region of Darfur in Sudan. According to the MSF team based in the area, so far 19 people have contracted meningitis - three of whom have died. Over a period of around four weeks, MSF will be working alongside the local health authorities and Red Cross to send out mobile teams to reach the widely-spread population. In total, 16 mobile teams will cover the two regions with each team vaccinating up to 1,000 people per day. Michel Françoys, MSF head of mission for Chad, explained: "Make no mistake, this is a deadly disease which, without treatment, kills between 50-80% of those who contract it. Meningitis is highly contagious so it also spreads like wildfire - especially in enclosed conditions such as refugee camps." The first cases of meningitis were discovered in Iriba by the MSF team at the beginning of March and, by the end of that month, it was clear that the epidemic threshold had been reached. "The threat of a catastrophic epidemic is always greater in an area such as this where people are already weak due to lack of care, impoverishment and flight," Francoys continued. "As it is nearly one in five children die before the age of five. We are having to mobilise our vaccination teams as quickly as possible before the situation spirals." Northeast of Chad is part of the meningitis belt which cuts a swathe across Africa from Ethiopia to Burkina Faso. Especially between February and May, the threat of a serious outbreak of the disease is very real for around 300 million people in 21 countries. In Chad alone, epidemics have broken out in 1998, 2000 and 2001.