Authorities Begin Vaccinations to Combat Measles Outbreak in Myanmar’s Naga Zone

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An ethnic Naga woman weaves cloth in a village in Lahe township, northwestern Myanmar's Sagaing region, Dec. 24, 2014.
An ethnic Naga woman weaves cloth in a village in Lahe township, northwestern Myanmar's Sagaing region, Dec. 24, 2014.

Authorities and health-care workers have started providing measles vaccinations to more than 600 people who live in eight villages in remote and impoverished northwestern Myanmar following a series of fatalities from a deadly outbreak of the contagious disease since June, a local official said.

As of Sunday, 41 people—many of them children—in Lahe and Nanyun townships of the Naga Self-Administered Zone have died from measles and other infectious viral diseases since June, said Thein Zaw, assistant director of the region’s administrative office.

Twenty people, including the director-general of the country’s Public Health Department, doctors, and health-care workers from Myanmar’s administrative capital Naypyidaw, began administering the vaccinations on Aug. 6, but they have been hampered from reaching the villagers because of the region’s poor roads, he said.

“Authorities and health-care workers are providing measles vaccinations in the region, [but] the roads are very bad and make traveling difficult,” Thein Zaw said.

“Although people are repairing the roads, they are still not getting better,” he said.

“The weather has also damaged the roads,” he said, because it is currently the monsoon season in the mountainous region populated by the Naga ethnic group.

Because of poor road infrastructure, it took doctors a week to reach the affected villages, where about 2,500 people live, after they heard about an outbreak of an unknown illness, according to a report by The New York Times on Aug. 6.

In 2015, Myanmar’s health ministry, assisted by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, rolled out a national campaign to immunize more than 17 million children aged nine months to 15 years against measles and rubella, but it may have missed some children in remote places.

The highly contagious respiratory infection caused by a virus is a one of the major causes of child mortality, especially in underdeveloped countries like Myanmar where people in remote areas lack access to basic medical care.

Reported by Zarni Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.





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