Liberian vaccination teams have braved
torrential rains, flooding rivers, mud holes and arduous walking to carry out an emergency
campaign which has averted the threat of a yellow fever epidemic in the north-western
coastal county of Grand Cape Mount.
Almost 86,000 men, women and children some 70% of the 128,000
population have now been reached in the acute phase of the campaign which lasted
from 8 to 15 September. Mop up activities will continue until the end of the month, along
with active surveillance for new cases. Before the campaign fewer than 5% of the
population was protected by yellow fever vaccination.
"The vaccinators haven't let the rain stop them" says Dr
Tanu Duworko, Grand Cape Mount County health officer, who has been in charge of the
campaign, "Some people have had to walk up to seven hours in the rain to get to the
hard-to-reach villages, or wait for rivers to go down so they can cross but they
are doing it."
One team even managed to gain access to a women's secret society
a common cultural phenomenon in Liberia which was holding an initiation, to
take blood samples from two girls with jaundice and to vaccinate the entire society.
The campaign was planned by WHO in collaboration with the ministry of
health and the non-governmental organizations Oxfam, World Vision, Médicins Sans
Frontières and the Initiative pour Solidarite Africane, and has involved over 280 people.
Funding sources also responded rapidly. In late August WHO Geneva flew
in US$85,000-worth of vaccine and disposable needles enough for 180,000 doses
funded by monies from donors including the British, Irish and Japanese Governments.
WHO Liberia stumped up operational funds to get the campaign up and
running rapidly, while the bulk of the vaccination teams are made up of health workers
from Oxfam and World Vision-supported clinic.
The European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) has agreed to
underwrite the month-long campaign via Oxfam to the tune of US$55,000 for such costs as
training, logistics, fuel, vaccinator team payments, social mobilisation and coverage
evaluation. The British Government, though its Department for International Development
has also donated US$100,000 to extend the campaign into neighbouring vulnerable counties
with equally low vaccination coverage.
Over 115 suspected cases have been reported from seven of
Liberia's 13 counties since the outbreak was declared in late August with the vast
majority stemming from Grand Cape Mount. Five deaths have been attributed to the disease.
However, only two cases from Grand Mount County have so far been found positive for yellow
fever in laboratory tests.
With disease control now on track in Grand Cape Mount, attention is now
turning to the neighbouring counties of Bomi and Lower Lofa where it is hoped a new
campaign, co-ordinated by Médicins Sans Frontières International, will get underway next
At the same time, WHO Sierra Leone is leading a parallel campaign in
the border provinces where the risk of disease transmission is high due to the mobile
Thanks to the Italian Government, 100,000 doses of vaccine will arrive
in Freetown early next week and training of vaccinators teams in collaboration with the
Ministry of Health and NGOs Médicins Sans Frontières Belgium and France is already