BRATISLAVA / KINSHASA - The Slovak humanitarian organization MAGNA will vaccinate hundreds of thousands of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the coming weeks. The children will receive an early Christmas present - a chance to survive one of the largest and fastest-spreading epidemics.
The vaccination campaign targets all children under 5 years of age in eight health zones in the western part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 1.3 million people live. The measles epidemic has raged in the country, claiming nearly 5,000, mostly child, victims this year. It's twice as much as the Ebola epidemic.
“After good experience with the quality work of our doctors in the Yumbi area, where MAGNA operates the entire healthcare system, international humanitarian coordination has entrusted us with generalized vaccination in other health zones. Taking into account the children who have already been vaccinated in the Yumbi area, this is such an extensive operation as if we had vaccinated almost all children under 5 years of age in Slovakia. Only in the next few weeks we will be vaccinating almost 230,000,” says MAGNA Director Martin Bandžák.
“Vaccination is the simplest protection against measles. Available vaccines have been proven to work and save lives. The health system in the Democratic Republic of Congo is underdeveloped and vaccination coverage against the most serious diseases is very low. In response to a major epidemic, the government, in cooperation with the international community, has therefore launched an urgent measles vaccination campaign, including MAGNA. In Europe, we are irresponsibly debating whether or not to vaccinate, and we are starting to put ourselves at risk. Here, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, ordinary people understand that vaccination saves the lives of the most vulnerable because they see children die daily as a result of not being vaccinated,” says MAGNA Operations Director Denisa Augustínová.
The measles epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is, according to the World Health Organization, the largest and fastest-spreading epidemic in the world. It has already affected the entire territory of the country and 90 percent of the victims of the epidemic are children under 5 years of age. Measles are one of the fastest spreading communicable diseases in which 142,000 people, mostly children, died worldwide in 2018.
The Slovak humanitarian organization MAGNA has been operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2009 and runs there its largest mission, which has 6 projects in three provinces. It focuses on health and nutritional care, reproductive health, health of mothers, newborns and children, midwifery, assistance to victims of sexual violence, psychosocial services, but also education of medical staff and communities.