Democratic Republic of the Congo: Families rush to get yellow fever vaccinations

Publicado: 29 agosto 2016 13:17 CET

By Mirabelle Enaka Kima, IFRC

Overcrowded and busy, the Barumbu vaccination site in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been a hive of activity since opening its doors at 7 o’clock on this particular morning.

Like many other health zones in the country, people are lining up to get their yellow fever vaccination, following an outbreak of the potentially deadly disease.

“We are not surprised to see people rushing to our vaccination sites. This was predictable as the news around the outbreak in neighbouring Angola was everywhere and created a psychosis in the population,” said Dr Aline Kulemfuka, head of health and social action with the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“People have heard so much about the yellow fever epidemic because many Congolese trading in Angola were aware of the disease and some, unfortunately, were among the first registered cases here.”  

Mothers and children rush to vaccination sites

Olga Ntoumba lives in the Aketi neighbourhood and arrived early at the Barumbu site with her two children. “I was informed about the campaign by a team of mobilizers who are visiting our neighbourhood every morning, providing us with key information on where and when to go for the vaccination,” said Ntoumba. 

“This is the first time I am hearing about this illness. Hearing from the Red Cross volunteers that it is an epidemic, made me understand just how dangerous the disease is and the importance for me and my children to be vaccinated.”

Monique Alangui, who regularly trades between Kinshasa and Angola, has also arrived at the vaccination site with her seven children in tow. “We are all glad the campaign has been launched and we welcome the efforts made by health authorities to protect us against this deadly disease. Now that I have been vaccinated, I will freely continue my business which I had to stop since I heard about this epidemic.”  

The campaign against yellow fever is taking place in 47 health zones in six affected provinces. In Kinshasa province, which accounts for 32 vaccination zones, thousands of people have already been vaccinated. 

On the front lines of the response

Because of the high interest from the public, 3,800 Red Cross volunteers and supervisors were deployed to the vaccination sites for the first three days of the campaign, to help control the crowds, while providing them with useful information about yellow fever.

“Alongside this responsibility, our volunteers will conduct door-to door activities to reach communities. Even if people are generally accepting of the vaccination campaign, we know by experience that there will always be cases of denial as a result of negative beliefs and rumours,” said Dr Jean-Faustin Balelia, health coordinator of the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Our teams have received refresher training on social mobilization techniques and are sufficiently equipped to deal with cases of rejection. Through social mobilization activities during previous campaigns, recorded immunization coverage has been satisfactory. We hope to achieve the same positive result during the yellow fever vaccination campaign.”

Recent statistics from the World Health Organization indicate that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has reported 2,410 suspected cases of yellow fever, with 75 confirmed cases and 16 deaths (25 August). Of the 75 confirmed cases, 57 came from Angola.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal of 2.2 million Swiss francs to support the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in responding to the yellow fever outbreak, as well as measles and cholera. The appeal aims to reach more than 12 million people through social mobilization activities, including environmental sanitation. The appeal is currently 49 per cent funded.