A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington. Picture: Reuters/Lindsey Wasson

Cape Town - A shortage of funds remained a huge barrier in efforts to curb the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) measles outbreak that had already claimed over 6 000 lives, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

The organisation this week called on international partners and agencies to increase resources to fight what it referred to as the "world's worst measles epidemic". 

“With the death toll from the world’s worst measles epidemic in the DRC surpassing 6 000, the WHO is calling for more funding to stop the outbreak,” it said via a statement.  

The DRC ministry of health, WHO, Gavi, Vaccine Alliance and other partner aid agencies vaccinated more than 18 million DRC children in 2019. 

But in some areas, routine vaccination coverage remained low, with 25% of the reported measles cases found in children over the age of five.

“We are doing our utmost to bring this epidemic under control. Yet to be truly successful we must ensure that no child faces the unnecessary risk of death from a disease that is easily preventable by a vaccine. We urge our donor partners to urgently step-up their assistance,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's regional director for Africa.

Around 310 000 suspected measles cases had been reported in the DRC since last year. The disease has killed more than double the amount of citizens that the Ebola virus has. 

The WHO said that although it had mobilised $27.6 million, it needed a further $40 million to include children aged between six and 14 in vaccination programmes.  

Globally, in excess of 140,000 people died of measles in 2019, the majority younger than five-years-old. 

Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads through coughing and sneezing. The virus can live in the air for up to two hours after an infected person has coughed or sneezed.

When someone with poor immunity breathes the contaminated air or touches an infected surface, they can contract the virus, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

African News Agency (ANA)