MSF starts measles vaccination campaign in Colombia

This week, MSF started a three-week measles vaccination campaign in the coastal mountain range in the Magdalena department, east of the city Santa Marta. The intervention follows a rapid assessment in late February in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region following infighting among several para-military groups.

The fighting resulted in an influx of up to 12,000 internally displaced people into the town of Santa Marta in addition to the existing 18,000 historically displaced people in this town. MSF will focus on the recently displaced population who were apparently forced to return to the rural areas two weeks ago. Because of poor health they are especially vulnerable.

Up until now four cases of measles have been confirmed among children and one case in a 28-year old adult.

The area is important since a lot of traffic of both people and goods from Venezuela go through this region. Along the border area, a couple of hundred cases of measles have been identified.

MSF is doing between 8,000 and 10,000 immunizations through two mobile brigades. MSF is cooperating closely with the health authorities throughout the campaign and the health authority is supplying MSF with vaccines and approximately 50% of the syringes and needles.

Apart from the direct assistance to the people in need this intervention is also of strategic importance in terms of visibility and reputation. It is the first time for MSF to be able to do medical work in this area where the organisation is barely known.

Other projects of MSF in Barrancabermeja and Materia, have resumed activities after the temporary suspension following the recent breakdown of the Colombian peace process.