In the isolated village of Ndongue, in western Central African Republic, dozens of parents and young children line up at a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) measles and pneumonia vaccination post, set up under a large mango tree. Some children have pastes of mango bark and leaves on their faces; a traditional remedy for measles and other ailments. For most people living in this remote area, traditional medicine is the only option.
“Nobody here can afford to pay for a hospital, so we try to cure ourselves using traditional medicine,” says Véronique, a local farmer who has come to get the youngest of her six children vaccinated. “As a last resort we go to traditional healers, and pay them with a chicken if we have no money. This is the first time we have heard about a vaccination.¨
When the Central African Republic’s first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in March, the country was already in the throes of the largest measles outbreak in decades. Now, as mass vaccination campaigns are put on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions, healthcare workers are faced with the challenge of fighting two different outbreaks at the same time.