DRC / CHILDREN MEASLES CHOLERA

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31-Mar-2020 00:01:13
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s battered healthcare system needs urgent support as it struggles with measles and cholera epidemics that kill thousands of children, as well as the mounting threat from the coronavirus, COVID-19, says UNICEF. UNICEF

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STORY: DRC / CHILDREN MEASLES CHOLERA
TRT: 1:13
SOURCE: UNICEF
RESTRICTIONS: PLEASE CREDIT UNICEF ON SCREEN
LANGUAGE: LINGALA / NATS

DATELINE: MARCH 2020, MIKONGA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

SHOTLIST:

1. Wide shot, Bwanga washes dishes outside her house
2. Close up, Bwanga’s children in the window of her home
3. Close up, Bwanga’s baby is held by another
4.SOUNDBITE (Lingala) Mama Bwanga, 25 Years Old:
“There was a rash all over her, and her eyes were red. Her throat was blocked and she couldn’t eat.”
5. Med shot, children from Bwanga’s extended family play inside the house
6. Wide shot, Bwanga’s baby sleeping
7.Close up, Bwanga’s baby sleeping
8. SOUNDBITE (Lingala) Mama Bwanga, 25 Years Old: “We lacked money and information about the measles vaccine.”
9. Med shot, Bwanga flips through photos
10. Wide shot, Bwanga places a photo of her and her late child on the table

STORYLINE:

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s battered healthcare system needs urgent support as it struggles with measles and cholera epidemics that kill thousands of children, as well as the mounting threat from the coronavirus, COVID-19, says UNICEF.

In a report released today (31 Mar), the UN children’s agency says that ongoing efforts to contain an Ebola outbreak in the east of the country have diverted attention and resources from already enfeebled healthcare facilities which are dealing with several deadly endemic diseases.

Since early 2019, a measles epidemic – the worst in the world -- has killed more than 5,300 children under the age of five, while there have been some 31,000 cases of cholera. Now, cases of the coronavirus, COVID-19, are increasing fast, posing a major challenge to a country identified as one of the most at risk in Africa.

In Mikonga, about an hour outside of the capital city of Kinshasa, 25-year-old Mama Bwanga reflected on the tragic loss of two children to measles in the space of one week.

She said, “there was a rash all over her, and her eyes were red. Her throat was blocked and she couldn’t eat.”

Bwanga added, “we lacked money and information about the measles vaccine.”

UNICEF supports community health care workers, who go door-to-door informing families on how to protect children against measles and other diseases.

Yet in public health centres, equipment, trained staff and funds are in desperately short supply. Many facilities even lack safe water and sanitation. Immunization rates that were already low have dropped sharply in some provinces over the past year.

An estimated 3.3 million children in the DRC have unmet vital health needs, while across the country, 9.1 million children (nearly one in five of the under-18 population) require humanitarian assistance.

Many of the most vulnerable children live in three conflict-affected eastern provinces impacted by the Ebola outbreak. Brutal militia violence – including attacks targeting health centres -- forced nearly a million people from their homes in 2019 alone, making it even harder for children to access essential medical care.

Malaria, measles, and cholera epidemics are a lethal threat in every part of the country. Remote rural communities are particularly vulnerable. The report says:

Around 16.5 million malaria cases were reported in 2019, causing nearly 17,000 deaths. Children under the age of 5 are most severely affected by the disease.

Measles cases surged in 2019-20, to reach 332,000 nationwide, making it the worst outbreak in the DRC’s history. Out of more than 6,200 recorded fatalities, around 85 per cent were children under the age of five.

Cholera is endemic, the consequence of poor sanitation and the dirty water that many families rely on for drinking and washing. Cholera killed around 540 people in 2019. Children make up about 45 per cent of cases.

In the report, UNICEF calls on the Government to allocate more of its budget for vital health care services supporting pregnant women, new-born and young children, and to prioritise the strengthening of routine immunization.

The agency urges international donors to commit generous multi-year support to the government’s efforts to revamp routine health care services and to reach its SDG goals in water, sanitation and hygiene in order to better protect children against communicable diseases.
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