Nigeria records 7,200 cases of diphtheria, 453 deaths
SCI Calls For Funding To Tackle Outbreak
Deploys Emergency Health Teams To Affected Areas
Save the Children International (SCI) has called for urgent funding to tackle the skyrocketing spate of diphtheria as the country has recorded 7200 cases and 453 deaths since its outbreak in May 2022.
The international body, in a statement yesterday in Abuja, said with most of the cases recorded in the past three months and the vast majority cases of 6,185 cases recorded in Kano, there is urgent need to step up intervention to curtail the spread.
They observed that 73.6 percent of all cases are of children under 14, with those aged between 5-14 years bearing the brunt of the disease. They attributed the spread to the periodic outbreaks in places with large groups of children who have missed the routine vaccination.
SCI stressed that diphtheria is a vaccine-preventable disease that has largely been eradicated across the world, saying prior to the pandemic, Nigeria already had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world, with efforts to strengthen routine immunisation coverage and reduce under-five mortality having limited success.
They revealed that currently only 42 percent of children under 15 in Nigeria are fully protected from diphtheria, and in this most recent outbreak, 80% of the confirmed cases have been found to be people who are unvaccinated.
The body, however, announced that it is collaborating with local authorities to launch a wide-scale health response in the three most impacted states of Kano, Yobe and Katsina.
Adding that Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit is deploying expert health and supply chain staff to help over-stretched clinics to detect and treat diphtheria cases and to support with mass vaccination campaigns across the worst hit areas.
They further stressed the need for government to urgently deal with the severe shortages of vaccine and antitoxin needed to treat the disease, saying if the shortages are not dealt with, the situation could continue to escalate, placing many children at risk of severe illness and death.
Save the Children’s Interim Country Director for Nigeria, Faton Krasniqi said: “The entire humanitarian community is alert to the crisis here. We are coordinating closely together and working alongside the Nigerian Ministry of Health to ensure we reach everyone who needs treatment and to contain the spread of the disease.
“Diphtheria can be fatal in more than 10% of cases, but this can increase in places like overcrowded displacement camps or informal settlements in cities, where families have limited access to health services or where health facilities are overwhelmed.”
“The response to this outbreak requires an urgent injection of funding and a large supply of vaccines to ensure we can contain it, and to save children’s lives.”
SCI, however, called on donors to support the comprehensive response being launched by the government, UN, and aid agencies to support local health services to cope with the influx of diphtheria cases, procure more vaccines and to roll out a mass vaccination campaign.
Krasnigi stated that Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit will work side-by-side with local health workers to ensure they have the skills and equipment needed to detect and treat diphtheria cases and to conduct contract tracing and community education to help reduce the spread of the disease. The unit is also on standby to support with mass vaccination campaigns as vaccine supplies become available.
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