At least 10,000 Burundian refugee children at Mahama Refugee Camp in Kirehe District have been immunised against polio and measles.
VIDEO: Vaccinating Burundian Refugee Children in Rwanda Mahama Camp. Source: The NewTimes/YouTube
The two-day immunisation campaign, led by the Ministry of Health with support from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), aimed at preventing the possible outbreak of deadly diseases among both the refugee populations and the hosting communities.
The camp so far hosts close to 23,500 people, including about 55 per cent children.
The possible outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases in the camp provoked preventive measures.
About 10,242 children under the age of 15 were vaccinated at the weekend.
Dr Jean de Dieu Ngirabega, the director of clinical services at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said the possible outbreak of deadly diseases among the refugee population drew concern and need for the immunisation campaign.
“Among such a population living under those prevailing conditions, there is bound to be an outbreak of diseases, therefore an immunisation campaign was sought as a way of preventing such. We hope to continue with the campaign for the refugees who are still coming to ensure a healthy population,” Ngirabega said.
Dr Oliver Petrovic, deputy representative of UNICEF, said having a huge number of children whose immunisation status is unknown in one small area can be a recipe for any diseases to spread quickly.
“To be sure that we have the maximum vaccination coverage possible, the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and partners undertook a mass immunisation campaign over a short period of time to try to reach 100 per cent of the children in Mahama camp with fresh vaccinations,” Dr Petrovic said.
“The good collaboration between One UN with UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO and the Ministry of Health taking the lead will ensure the campaign’s success.”
One of the beneficiaries, Marie Goretti Mukankundiye, a mother of three – including newborn twins – appreciated the campaign, saying it would help their children stay healthy.
“We are faced with a lot of difficulties in the camp but now as far as health is concerned we are going to rest knowing that at least our children are safe,” Mukankundiye said.
Meanwhile, with the current health situation at the camp, Dr Jean Nepo Hakizamungu, the medical coordinator from American Refugee Camp, said patients increase day by day yet the camp still lacks enough facilities.
“We have an approximate number of 250 to 300 patients in outpatient department, some of them need to be admitted yet we only have the capacity of admitting 20 patients. So far we have had 15 deaths and most of them are children. We have had 44 deliveries but luckily there have been no maternal deaths,” he said.
Dr Hakizamungu said the major diseases affecting refugee population are pneumonia and diarrhoea because of the poor hygiene in the camp.
“The number of refugees has been growing and we have increased the number of health workers, we hope to give them more training. We so far have 80 community workers operating in the camp,” he added.