515,000 doses of meningitis vaccine
due to arrive in Rwanda
NAIROBI, 27 August (IRIN) - A consignment of 515,000 doses of vaccine and other medical supplies is due to arrive in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on Tuesday to strengthen efforts to contain a meningitis epidemic that has, so far, killed 65 people and affected at least another 445, including 148 children, the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, reported.
The consignment, which includes syringes and antibiotics, and has been funded by the US Agency for International Development and the UK's Department for International Development, follows an earlier UNICEF delivery of 150,00 doses of vaccine and related material, and a similar quantity by Medecins Sans Frontieres. The Rwandan Ministry of Health has also provided 238,700 doses of vaccine.
"We are very concerned about he situation here in Rwanda, as well as
the meningitis outbreak in Burundi," Theophane Nikyema, the UNICEF
representative in Rwanda, said.
Initially, the disease had been confined to the southwestern Rwandan
prefecture of Butare, where it first broke out in June, but thereafter
spreading to Kibungo Prefecture in the east, UNICEF Rwanda reported. It said health officials in Kibilizi District first suspected an outbreak
of malaria, because most patients were exhibiting symptoms of fever and testing positive for malaria. However, when antimalarial treatment
failed and subsequent tests were done, meningitis was identified.
At least 1.2 million people in Butare and Kibungo were at risk, UNICEF
reported, "half of them children and young people aged under 18 years".
The Ministry of Health has already upgraded four districts to epidemic
status and three more are on alert.
Meningococcus is the bacterium that enters the brain and causes
cerebrospinal meningitis, which can be fatal.
Small pockets of food insecurity
NAIROBI, 26 August (IRIN) - Small pockets of food insecurity are likely
to appear by October-November in 12 of Rwanda's 95 districts, mainly in high altitude zones, The USAID-funded Famine Early Warning System (FEWS NET), reported on 13 August.
FEWS NET said its "initial, very rough estimate" of the those likely to
be affected was 150,000 to 200,000, equivalent to about 2 percent of the country's population. Accordingly, it added, "Humanitarian agencies (particularly the World Food Programme) should plan to increase their current food assistance programme, preferably in the form of food-for-work opportunities."
FEWS NET was citing a recent joint crop assessment report submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture in early August. The extent and duration of aid would, it said, depend on the rainfall pattern for the next season.
However, FEWS NET reported that with 1,928 kilocalories per person per day, estimated from local production and assuming that previous levels of imports will be maintained, "the evaluation mission had concluded that the food situation would be fairly good in Rwanda up to the end of the year".
Meningitis kills 65 in Rwanda,
one million at risk
GENEVA, Aug 23 (Reuters) - A meningitis outbreak has killed at least 65 people in Rwanda, where aid workers are scurrying to vaccinate one million people deemed at risk, the United Nations said on Friday. The outbreak, which began about a month ago in Butare province in
Southwest Rwanda, has spread to Kibungo province in the east, according to the U.N.Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Rwanda's Health Ministry has reported 65 deaths among 439 suspected cases, UNICEF spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte told a news briefing.
"We realise these numbers certainly underestimate the full extent of the epidemic because many deaths go unreported," Belmonte said. "There is clear concern about it getting worse, spreading even more widely." About 1.18 million people in the two provinces are at risk from the disease, half of whom are children under 18, she said.
A mass vaccination campaign has begun in the affected areas, and more vaccines, syringes and antibiotics are being flown in. Rwanda is in the arid region dubbed the "meningitis belt", stretching across the African continent near the southern fringes of the Sahara desert. UNICEF is responding to similar outbreaks in Burundi and monitoring the situation in Tanzania.
A meningitis epidemic in Burkina Faso this year killed more than 1,000 people as of April, according to the West African country's Health Ministry.
Copyright (c) 2002 Reuters. Received by NewsEDGE/LAN: