from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – MORE than 450 people have died as Nigeria battles the most severe diphtheria outbreak in recent global history.
The outbreak has so far resulted in over 11 500 suspected cases, more than 7 000 confirmed cases.
Most of the cases and 453 deaths are children aged between four to 15 years, who have not received even a single dose of the vital vaccine.
This lays bare the urgency of the vaccination situation in Nigeria.
“The devastating impact of this diphtheria outbreak is a grim reminder of the importance of vaccination,” said Dr Rownak Khan, local representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The envoy noted Nigeria is home to a staggering 2,2 million children who have not received even a single dose of vaccine – the second largest such cohort in the world.
“We must collectively take urgent actions to drastically reduce this number. Every child deserves protection from preventable diseases. This is not negotiable,” Khan said.
UNICEF is providing urgent support to the Nigerian government in its efforts to combat the outbreak.
A crucial part of this support includes the procurement of vaccines to support the government’s response.
So far, on behalf of the government, UNICEF has deployed 9,3 million doses of diphtheria vaccines to affected states.
The most affected states are Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Yobe.
Of these, 4 million doses have been dispatched to Kano, the epicentre of the outbreak. Another 4 million doses of vaccines are being procured and will be handed over to the government in the coming weeks.
The children’s agency emphasises the importance of strengthening routine immunization, community engagement, and health systems to avoid similar outbreaks in the future.
To respond effectively to the outbreak, UNICEF Nigeria needs to raise an additional US$3,3 million until the end of the year.
Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria that make toxins. It can lead to difficulty breathing and heart rhythm problems.
– CAJ News