Pediatric doctors at Donka hospital reviewing mealses cases
Over 800 children have fallen ill with measles in the last two months, it is a major epidemic. In the developed world measles is a minor inconvenience, in a country like Guinea it is often fatal. .Measles is preventable, a well functioning routine vaccination programme should prevent epidemics breaking out, and should an epidemic occur an emergency response should prevent it becoming generalised. However Guinea has been going economic and political turmoil since 2006 , this has weakened the health services. As a result routine vaccination is no longer fully effective, hence the current epidemic.
The government, UNICEF, WHO and other actors got together to conduct a country wide campaign from November 20 to 26th to vaccinate against measles combined with the distribution of bed nets against malaria and vitamin a and deworming tablets to minimise malnutrition.
I spent the day visiting a hospitals, health centres and vaccination points to better understand what needs to be done. The condition of the children in the hospital was critical. There is a local practice of treating fever with palm wine and ice water baths, partly this is because people believe it works and partly because they want to delay having to pay for medicine or treatment. This has the unfortunate result that many children who are referred to the hospital arrive at a very and dangerous state in the development of the disease, also the ice burns the skin of the children aggravating their condition. .I spoke with the parents and children; they were confused and worried by what was happening to their children.
The parents agreed to my taking photographs. Looking at the images I find them shocking; I do not know what is right to do. To not show them is to hide a reality about measles that people need to know about, to mobilise support. But it is not possible to be dignified when you have measles.
One of the children that we saw died that night, it should have been avoided.