Geneva, 15 MAY 2020 – “Routine vaccination rates for children declined between 2 and 10 per cent in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in January and February this year, compared with the same period in 2019, mostly due to poor cold chain systems, low coverage and vaccine stock-outs.
“In all, 86,905 children did not receive the oral polio vaccine; 84,676 children were not vaccinated against measles; and 107,010 did not received the yellow fever vaccine in the first two months of the year.
“This is particularly alarming in a country where just over one-third (35 per cent) of children aged 12-23 months are fully vaccinated before their first birthday. The DRC could potentially see more polio cases and see a resurgence of measles and yellow fever epidemics.
“In 2019, DRC had the world’s worst measles outbreak. As of early May, there have been over 54,000 suspected measles cases, including 694 deaths. Every province in the country is affected.
“The extremely low level of vaccine stocks in the country is a major concern. As of this month, the Democratic Republic of Congo is out of the measles, bivalent polio, yellow fever and BCG vaccines. The country is also running low on DTP-HepB-Hib, tetanus and rotavirus vaccines.
“The emergence of Covid-19 cases in DRC in March will almost certainly worsen the situation. Health workers conducting routine vaccinations do not have adequate equipment to protect themselves, caregivers and children. Parents are reluctant to attend vaccination sessions for fear of exposing themselves and their children to COVID-19. We will have updated figures on how this is affecting vaccination coverage soon.
“Beyond vaccination, COVID-19’s disruption of health systems and access to food could mean tens of thousands of additional child deaths in DRC. A modelling study done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health University published in the Lancet on Tuesday, put DRC among top 10 countries globally that could have the largest number of additional child deaths due to Covid-19-related reductions in routine health coverage and decreased access to food. Based on a worst-case scenario, the country could see over nearly 54,000 additional child deaths over the next six months.
“Despite the emergence of COVID, UNICEF has supported the Government of the DRC to keep vaccinating children in critical outbreak areas, including Ituri, North Kivu and Equateur province. To do so safely, we also provided infection prevention and control kits including gloves, masks, thermometers, soap and water, and hand sanitizer.
“UNICEF is urging the Government of the DRC to conduct catch-up campaigns and intensify immunization activities across the country. More vaccine supplies and consumables to administer vaccines are needed, as well as personal protective equipment for health workers. UNICEF also appeals to international donors to sustain the country’s immunization efforts with multi-year funding support.
“UNICEF’s COVID-19 response funding appeal is for $58 million dollars. As of 11 May, we had received $12.9 million or 18 per cent.”
Notes to editors:
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