DRC: An ambitious vaccination campaign in war-torn Congo

1 Dec 2014
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Democratic Republic of Congo

Trekking for days, in an area known locally as 'The Land of a Thousand Hills', a Médecins sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF) team conducts an ambitious vaccination campaign for measles, polio, and yellow fever.

Photojournalist Phil Moore documented the campaign as teams transported vaccines, in cold storage boxes, to remote communities in the war-torn eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Issa Chirihahira Nyamirenge, an MSF nurse, walks through the bush between the villages of Kazinga and Ngomashi on the first day of the campaign.

Mud is splattered over the door of an MSF Land Cruiser as it is stuck in the mud on the road between Kazinga and Nyabiondo in Masisi territory in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The road is almost impassable during rains, thick with mud and with several precarious log bridges to cross. Due to this, the journey is divided between driving and trekking.

A militia man carries a rocket-propelled grenade through the rain in the village of Kazinga in Masisi territory.

MSF conducted the campaign across mountainous territory controlled by armed groups, in villages so remote they were only accessible by foot.

Porters carry an 'accumulator', a cool-box for safely storing live vaccines. Three teams of six people set-off from Kazinga to trek to remote villages in the bush, along with 55 porters.

Kazinga marks the end of the road leading into the area, which is controlled by two different armed groups.

Mothers listen as MSF healthcare worker Alpha Atafazali Bahunga tells them that they require three rounds of vaccination during a session in a church and school in the village of Kalungu II in Masisi territory.

Over the course of a week, MSF teams vaccinated pregnant women and children under five-years-old in the remote villages in the area.

A child receives a polio vaccine in the village of Kalungu II during the vaccination campaign.

A man employed to give vaccines in Kalungu II is pictured wearing a bib from a previous government-run vaccination programme which carries the message 'To vaccinate is to love, to vaccinate is to protect!'.  

Porters carry sacks containing vaccination equipment over a bridge made of bamboo and vines between the villages of Katanga and Kitobo II. Just before reaching the bridge, one must cross a checkpoint manned by rebels who control the surrounding area.

Doctor Adolph Batundi Bindu speaks on a satellite telephone from a vaccination site in the village of Kishee. It took two days to reach Kishee from the MSF base in Masisi, first driving five-and-a-half hours to the village of Kazinga, which lies at the end of a dirt-road.

From Kazinga, the team walked for three hours over hills and through bush to Nyabiondo where they spent the night, followed by another two hours trek to Kishee.

A house stands empty as it is reclaimed by the jungle in the abandoned village of Luho.

Luho is one of several villages in the area which have been abandoned due to the conflict, in an area held by the rebel group.

Mist rises out of the forest at dawn over the village of Ngomashi.

Ngomashi is four hours' trek over mountains and through bush from the end of the nearest road, and is home to the main health centre providing healthcare to many of the remote villages in the area.

A pregnant lady is vaccinated in the village of Kitobo II. This was an extra session due to conflict between Kitobo and Kalungu which prevented residents from crossing between the two villages and reaching the planned Intense Vaccination Campaign organised by MSF over the week.

The MSF team vaccinated 4,054 children and pregnant women against a wide range of diseases over the course of the journey.

These villages rely on rare efforts like this for their healthcare needs.

Read the full first-hand account from Phil about his journey

Find out more about MSF's work in Democratic Republic of Congo