Since January 2, 200 children have developed measles in Niger, despite the implementation of a national vaccination campaign. MSF has sent medical teams to Zinder and Maradi, the regions with the highest numbers of measles cases, to prevent the spread of this highly contagious disease. A total of 278,000 children have been vaccinated to date.
In December, 2007, measles cases started to be reported in the regions of Maradi and Zinder. During January, government health authorities vaccinated children between nine months and five years of age. Despite the national vaccination campaign, an increasing number of children have become infected with measles - 2,200 cases were recorded nationally between January 1 and March 23. To combat the spread of the disease, MSF teams have begun vaccination campaigns for children between six months and 15 years of age in Zinder and Maradi.
Zinder: a spider's web strategy
In Zinder region, MSF teams have set up a surveillance system, trained medical personnel and launched an awareness campaign on national radio stations.
Since March 26, 42,000 children between the ages of six months and 15 years have been vaccinated within a 15 km radius of the town of Magaria on the Nigerian border. The region is very rural with a highly dispersed population, so MSF has adopted a decentralised strategy with mobile teams travelling to outlying villages.
This strategy allows children to be vaccinated directly in their villages, improving the vaccination coverage rate and allowing quicker detection of people with the disease. Around twenty children with measles are being diagnosed every day.
Further north, other teams initiated a vaccination campaign in the town of Zinder on March 30. 94,700 children have been vaccinated in the past five days. This vaccination campaign will be extended towards the more rural areas of Zinder district.
All of the 350,000 vaccines ordered by MSF for the Zinder region have been delivered and are ready for use.
Maradi: 142,000 children vaccinated
Of the 2,200 cases reported since the beginning of the year, 946 were registered in the Maradi region (Maradi Commune, Guidam Roumji and Madarounfa).
On April 1, 106,000 children were vaccinated in Maradi town (of whom 41,000 were under five), and 35,124 in the district of Guidam Roumji. The vaccination coverage rate has reached 88.6%.
Measles provokes complications in malnourished children
Niger has one of the worst rates of chronic and acute childhood malnutrition in the world. MSF runs nutritional programmes in several locations in the regions of Maradi (Maradi, Guidan Roumdji, Dakoro), Zinder (Zinder, Magaria) and Tahoua (Madoua et Bouza).
When malnutrition and measles combine together, it is extremely serious for young children. Malnutrition weakens the immune response and leaves children more vulnerable to infectious diseases such as measles, and children with measles are more susceptible to malnutrition. It is therefore essential to protect children against measles in Niger. MSF has initiated massive vaccination campaigns to prevent the disease from spreading any further.