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First a devastating fire and now a vicious outbreak of measles at Muna IDP Camp

30 November 2021
Reading time: 4 minutes

Parents in Muna, an internally displaced persons’ camp in Maiduguri, are in a panic as an outbreak of measles is taking its toll on their children.

The outbreak follows a raging fire on November 4 that destroyed a large part of the camp, leaving residents without shelters, food and clothes.

RNI reporter Fatima Grema Modu visited Muna Camp to speak to the parents of children who had measles.

Bakura Sale said measles outbreaks were common in the cold, dusty harmattan season.

“The disease is spreading throughout the camp and many of the children are ill. Some of us have been searching for sticks in the bush to cover and warm up our shelters.”

Mahmud Mafa said the government needed to help the IDPs, especially as there were a large number of children living in the camp.

“There are more than 15,000 IDPs in this camp but young children make up the majority of the people here. Right now seven of my neighbour’s children are suffering. We do not have basic things, such as blankets, mattresses, clothes and, more importantly, medicines. We are poor and we cannot afford to take our sick children to hospitals or clinics.”

Zainab Ari, a mother of two, said her children had been suffering from measles for a week.

“The disease is all over the camp and the cold weather is making things worse. Many of us lost most of our belongings in the fire so we don’t have much to help our children,” she said.

“I took my two children to the chemist outside the camp to buy them injections and medicines. I had to buy them on debt because I do not have money. But I was desperate. I could not just stand and watch my children suffer. If you go to the clinic in the camp, they just give you a card saying you were there,” Ari said.

Residents of the camp told RNI that many of them had to do just that, stand and watch their children suffer because they were too poor to do anything about it.

Alhaji Ali Kachalla, a clinician in Muna Camp, said that they tried to immunise children when they were five or six years old. Now that parents had been made aware the danger of measles, more people were bringing their children to be immunised, though some did not trust vaccines and relied on traditional medicines.

“Two to three cases of measles are reported every week. We immunise at least 11 cases a month, mostly children aged seven or eight. We face challenges treating the disease but, thankfully, we succeed most times.”

Kachalla said they tried to make parents more aware of the disease and taught them how to take care of children with measles to reduce spreading it across the camp. “We teach them about the symptoms of the disease, such as coughing, vomiting, fever, sweating, among others.”

He said he would like to see more parents taking their children to get immunised and urged them to double their efforts to reduce the prevalence of measles in Borno state.

Muhammad Kashim, a health worker at the New GRA Clinic in Maiduguri, said: “Many children have fallen ill in internally displaced persons’ camps where measles, because of the congestion, spreads easily and quickly from house to house.”

He said when an outbreak emerged, parents should separate infected children from healthy ones until they had recovered.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the best protection against measles was the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which provided long-lasting protection against all strains of measles.

Measles, or rubeola, is a viral infection that starts in the respiratory system. It still remains a significant cause of death worldwide, despite the availability of the safe, effective vaccine.

The CDC said some people regarded measles as just a little rash and fever that cleared up in a few days but it could cause serious health complications, especially in children younger than five years of age. It said some of the common symptoms included a high fever, cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes and a rash.

Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) − Doctors Without Borders – said measles was extremely contagious and serious. It was especially dangerous for young children and could even be fatal.

About the author

Elvis Mugisha