DRC— Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has detected a Mpox outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s western province of Equateur, with persons in the Bolomba health zone impacted over the previous months.
Doctors Without Borders is an acronym for Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF), and its medical teams work in over 75 countries to give lifesaving help where it is most needed.
Some of the most important medical projects of the organization are in Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Burundi.
In these countries, MSF maintains hospitals, health centers, and mobile clinics, as well as emergency projects in response to increases in healthcare needs.
MSF also operates a regional office in Kenya, where it supports medical initiatives in the country and nearby areas, hires professionals to help manage activities around the world, and raises awareness of humanitarian crises to which it is responding.
Bolomba is located more than 300 kilometers from Mbandaka, the seat of Equateur province, and is a highly forested area rich in animals.
It is remote and difficult to reach, with the residents relying primarily on hunting and fishing, and its environmental setting is conducive to the development of animal-borne diseases such as viral hemorrhagic fevers and Mpox.
According to MSF, an MSF emergency team has been on-site from the end of August to mid-October 2023 to assist health authorities in treating patients and combating disease spread.
MSF staff have been eager to strengthen epidemiological surveillance at the community level, and offer medical care in health facilities as well as at the Bolomba General Referral Hospital (HGRB), where an isolation circuit and a dedicated treatment unit has been established.
Mpox is a contagious viral illness of animal origin that is prevalent in approximately 10 countries in Central and West Africa.
Mpox is characterized by rashes on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or inside the mouth, and can be accompanied by fevers, sore throats, muscle aches, skin lesions, or pain in the lymph nodes.
According to Raphael Kibwantiaka, leader of MSF’s emergency response in the Bolomba health zone, if the disease is not treated promptly, it can lead to complications and death in people infected, particularly if their immune system is already damaged by other infections such as measles.
This makes infected individuals highly contagious and necessitates the need to isolate themselves quickly to prevent widespread transmission.
He went on to claim that MSF has been able to reach people where others could not because the movement for teams and equipment was impossible due to bad roads and muddy forest pathways.
According to MSF reports, more than 890 patients have been treated for Mpox in MSF-supported health facilities in the last two and a half months, with 72 persons hospitalized for severe forms of the disease.
Additionally, MSF teams have offered training on Mpox management to local health staff, as well as supporting 11 health clinics in distant, hard-to-reach areas.
Dr. Théophile Lukembe, an MSF doctor deployed to the HGRB, noted that this medical approach aims to bring healthcare as close to those affected as possible and to treat serious patients within the facility.
He went on to state that by promoting a home-based care plan, providing therapy while assisting patients in maintaining isolation to avoid contaminating other family members, only patients with concerns were moved to health institutions for proper treatment.
MSF monitored over 800 patients at home and coordinated awareness-raising campaigns in health facilities and the community to reduce illness transmission and stigma.
MSF emergency teams also responded to a measles epidemic in Bolomba, where they vaccinated 110,723 children and treated 3,355 others. In addition, 827 malnourished children and 2,583 malaria patients are being treated.