A Meningitis outbreak in Chad refugee camps
Infectious disease in a refugee camp
Refugee camps are by their very nature transient and the refugee camps in eastern Chad are no exception. There is a constant ebb and flow of people on the move.
First, an influx of refugees fleeing during the onset of a crisis arrives at the camps. And then there are the later arrivals of people who have managed to stay a little longer at their points of origin.
An outbreak of meningitis strikes
These constant movements make refugee camps the perfect breeding ground for infectious diseases as refugees transport diseases just as easily as their belongings.
As a result of the constant migrations into Gaga camp in eastern Chad, an outbreak of meningitis struck in early 2012. Meningitis is a highly contagious disease which in some cases can be fatal when not treated in time. With roughly 19,000 residents at Gaga, the consequences could be disastrous. Typical symptoms such as headaches, stiff neck and vomiting can be common. Most vulnerable are children above two years of age through adolescents.
Any outbreak of a deadly transmittable disease like meningitis calls for immediate action. As soon as the first cases were identified, International Medical Corps sent a plan to all partners in the camp’s management and set up vaccination points at various locations, including local schools.
Organizing quickly, Dr. Cisse and the International Medical Corps staff organized 10 teams of vaccinators to travel around the camp. Within weeks approximately 91 percent of the population or 13,537 residents were vaccinated, 11 percent higher than required by UNHCR.
International Medical Corps still maintains a vigilant eye on its three other camps in eastern Chad, as all lie in what is called the “meningitis belt”.