IRC responds to deadly yellow fever outbreak in Uganda
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is responding to a rare outbreak of yellow fever which has so far claimed almost 50 lives in northern Uganda.
To help curb the spread of the disease and treat those already infected, the IRC is training Ugandan health workers and community volunteers in the northern districts of Kitgum and Lamwo to detect, refer and treat the disease and is providing drugs, disinfectants, and protective gear including gloves and masks.
The IRC will also assist in a government run vaccination campaign that that will reach 2.5 million people in Uganda’s northern districts. Meanwhile, an IRC ambulance is carrying patients from isolated communities to hospitals. When the vaccination campaign begins later this month, IRC health teams will help transport vaccines from storage facilities to inoculation sites.
Dr. Alex Opio Chono, who directs the IRC’s health programs in Uganda, said that the IRC is now focused on promoting preventative hygiene, bringing information to the public, and strengthening community involvement in detecting and reporting symptoms of yellow fever.
“Our teams are travelling around the countryside, informing people about yellow fever and where they can receive inoculations,” Dr. Chono said. “In collaboration with the district health authorities we are also launching an information campaign with posters, radio spots, radio talk shows and community meetings.”
Yellow fever, transmitted by infected mosquitoes, was last recorded in Uganda almost 40 years ago, according to health officials. The disease has a wide range of symptoms from nausea and vomiting to jaundice, bleeding and kidney failure. About half of those who develop severe symptoms and are untreated die from the disease.
The outbreak is affecting an area still recovering from two decades of civil war between the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan government.
“The war destroyed many health facilities and there is a severe shortage of trained medical staff, making this area particularly ill-equipped to handle an outbreak of such a serious disease,” said Cristine Betters, the IRC director in Uganda.