An increase in the outbreak of cerebrospinal meningitis has claimed the lives of more than 700 people in Nigeria, mostly children between the age of 5 and 14. The outbreak began in November 2016 and has since spread to 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states. The northern part of the country is the most affected, with more than 85% of the reported cases.
According to a statement from the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), 3,959 suspected cases have been reported in 19 states of the country, 181 of which are laboratory confirmed.
Zamfara state is the worst hit out of the states in Nigeria with close to 300 recorded deaths of the 700 reported deaths in the country. However, the Governor of Zamfara state, Abdulhaziz Yari has attributed the outbreak to God’s anger over the sins of Nigeria, generating a lot of criticism from the public.
However, there has been a shortage of vaccines to curb the spread of the disease which is increasingly ravaging the country. Speaking on Thursday about the scarcity of the vaccines, Mr. Anyene, a member of the National Immunisation Finance Task Team (NIFT), said:
“The constraint with immunisation of miningitis is that there is no vaccine and that is the truth of the fact. The C strain of miningitis is not very common, but it does happen. The sign has been there in the country for the past three years but nobody wanted to take note… We need to build up our system because vaccines is not a commodity on the shelf that you can just buy over the counter. A vaccine has to be pre-ordered and paid for upfront and it takes about six months for it to delivered to you.”
Nigeria’s Minister for Health, Professor Issac Adewole, had earlier admitted that the outbreak of the disease shows that the ministry has to increase its surveillance and preparation in curtailing a future epidemic outbreak of the disease in the country. In his statement, he said: “Though the ministry has been preparing for an outbreak of meningitis in the country, the outbreak and casualties recorded has shown that a lot still needs to be done”
The Health Minister had a meeting with donors and developmental parties, including the World Bank, World Health Organization, Rotary, UNICEF, funding agencies from U.S., Canada and Japan to ask for increased contributions to help Nigeria pay for immunization. He further stated that to ensure that there is no stock-out of vaccines, the government needs to budget for the next two years. The last meningitis outbreak in Nigeria was reported in 2009. It affected over 9000 people and claimed the lives of 562 people.
Nigeria lies on the meningitis belt stretching from the Sahel region to the Horn of Africa.
The epidemic outbreak needs to be curbed as quickly as possible to prevent a further outbreak in other states across the country and the Nigerian government needs to prepare for future outbreak of epidemic so as to nip it in the bud