Outbreaks of measles continue to be a common occurrence among refugee and famine-affected children in emergency relief camps.
Extremely high measles-associated mortality rates have been reported from refugee camps–where undernutrition is common–in several countries over the past 10 years.
Mortality from measles is, however, preventable, and immunization against the disease is a high priority in emergency relief programmes, second only in importance to the provision of adequate food rations.
All children aged 6 months to 5 years should be immunized with measles vaccine as soon as they enter an organized camp or settlement. Should supplies of measles vaccine be inadequate, children in feeding centres, or those otherwise identified as undernourished, are the top priority for immunization.
The occurrence of measles in a camp is not a contraindication to conducting an immunization campaign.
Strong coordination by a designated lead agency is needed if such campaigns are to be successful; however, cooperation with the local expanded programme on immunization is essential to ensure that existing cold chain equipment, training protocols, and management manuals are used.
If additional equipment is necessary, a complete immunization kit developed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization, and Oxfam can be procured from Oxfam headquarters in the United Kingdom.
Vitamin A supplements should be given routinely at the time of measles immunization in situations where malnutrition is severe.
Mortality and morbidity in children with clinical measles can be reduced by administering high doses of vitamin A.