Meningitis scourge takes over Nigeria

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As death toll hits 500-mark in 19 states

How FG is failing

AS AT WEEKEND, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, said the death toll from the dreaded meningitis disease has risen to 438 from the 336 it was last Wednesday.

Many states across the country have put health workers on alert, and have also been sensitising residents on measures to adopt in order to avoid the disease. NCDC said so far, 3,959 cases have been recorded out of which 181 cases have been confirmed “As at April 5, 2016, 3,959 suspected cases have been reported as part of the current outbreak, of which 181 cases have been laboratory-confirmed,” the organisation said in a statement.

“A total of 438 deaths (11% of all cases) have been reported from 106 LGAs in 19 states in the country.” The NCDC said it commenced a mass vaccination exercise on Thursday and that there had been a massive turnout.

“In response to the recent outbreak of Meningitis C in some states in Nigeria, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Cosntrol (NCDC) in support to the Zamfara State Government, has commenced a mass vaccination exercise,” NCDC said.

“The campaign started on the 6th of April 2017 in the eight most affected local government areas in Zamfara state, and will continue until April 9, 2017. The campaign targets 300,000 persons aged 2 – 29 years. More campaigns are planned in other States in the near future.” NCDC said the federal government is collaborating with the Zamfara state government and other global partners on an “intensive sensitisation” exercise to increase community participation in the vaccination campaign.

“Reports from the field indicate early progress in the vaccination exercise. In Zamfara state, there has been a massive turnout recorded in the target local government areas,” the organisation said. “The secretary to the state government of Zamfara and chairman of the Zamfara state committee for the control of Meningitis, Prof.

AbdullahiShinkafi, is coordinating oversight of the vaccination exercise, in close collaboration with the NCDC chief executive officer, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who is leading an NCDC technical team to monitor and supervise the campaign.”

How FG is failing Currently Nigeria is bedevilled with the outbreak of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis, CSM, in high risks areas of the country and the media have gone agog with news of deaths resulting from this scourge.

The Minister of Health, Professor Issac Adewole at the height of meningitis outbreak in the country has announced that it has killed about 328 people in 16 states of the federation and still counting because of the viral nature of the disease.

Before now Nigeria was used to serotype A meningitis and there were donated vaccines from WHO but because of the new strain of serotype C meningitis, there are no vaccines.

In its usual tradition, Nigerian government has been holding talks with donors like the World Health Organisation, WHO, European Union, UNICEF, Centre for Disease Control, and E-Health Africa to donate vaccines to combat this scourge in the country.

A public advisory report from the Ministry of Health, following the recent outbreak of meningitis in some parts of the country the epidemic has so far spread to 90 Local Government Areas, LGAs, in 16 states in the country.

States affected include Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Niger, Gombe, Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Taraba, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Yobe, Kano, Osun, Cross River, Lagos and Plateau. The total number of people affected is 2,524 with 328 deaths.

Accordingly, the report has disclosed that a total number of people affected across these states are 2,524 with 328 deaths from a total of 131 laboratory confirmed samples, out of which a majority are Neisseria Meningitides serotype C.

The current outbreak started in Zamfara State in November 2016.According to NCDC, current death from meningitis has risen from 328 to 336 from suspected infection cases of 2,997. The disease infiltrated into the country from neighbouring country like Cameroon and Niger.

According to the Secretary to Zamfara State Government, Abdullahi Muhammad, Zamfara State which still has the highest deaths of 215 people, mostly children and over 1,600 infected people.

Death toll in Katsina State has reached 41. In Sokoto State, Chairman of Gada Local Government Area, LGA, Dr Abdullahi Gada reported that death toll caused by the outbreak has risen to seven out of 77 reported cases.

Dr Abdullahi Gada disclosed this in Gada last Friday when he addressed newsmen who were on a fact-finding tour of the area. Executive Secretary of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Primary Health Care Board, Dr. Rilwanu Mohammed disclosed that the city has recorded for the first time six meningitis suspected deaths.

Reports from the Ministry of Health states that outbreak of CSM in Nigeria has spread across the country affecting mostly in the upper parts of the country which fall within the African Meningitis Belt.

And Nigeria is not alone in this health malaise as other West Africa countries like Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Togo and Burkina Faso are currently suffering the scourge.

Not only this, the larger African Meningitis Belt consists of 26 countries that stretch from Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau in the west coast to eastern countries of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Historical report from the Ministry of Health says that the worst CSM epidemics experienced in the country  occurred in 1996 when about 109,580 cases and 11,717 deaths were recorded, followed by the one in 2003-4,130 cases and 401 deaths then in 2008 – 9,086 cases and 562 deaths,  and in 2009, when 9,086 cases and 562 deaths were recorded. Before now, serotype ‘’A’’ meningitides was common in Nigeria until the present outbreak which was found to be serotype C.

Judging from the present scenario of increasing death toll from meningitis outbreak in the country, Federal Government is failing in its responsibility of providing Nigerians adequate health care services especially at times like this. Since this current outbreak, government has openly  confessed to the public thatthere are no vaccines to immunise people and to further stop spread of this bacterial infection especially in high risks states.

The Federal Government from all indications is not proactive in its approach to the health issues of its citizens. All they do is to fold their arms and wait for the next epidemic to blow out before applying a fire brigade approach. Each time the country runs into health crisis, government prefers to run cap in hand to external donors like the World Health Organisation, Global Fund, and others for vaccines, funds and technical assistance.

Right now, government on Monday declared that it needs $1.1billion to vaccinate the 22 million Nigerians living in affected areas; this is excluding the rest population which would also be affected if the disease spreads to other states.

The Acting Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr. Emmanuel Odu had told the National Assembly that $1.1 billion is needed to vaccinate an estimated 22 million Nigerians in affected areas.

The vaccines would be sourced from India. Government could be said to be unprepared in handling health epidemics like this and short- sighted in its health care services to people. Each year government announces budget for health care services but excludes or forget to provide for the rainy days of epidemics.

Nigeria has experienced epidemics like Lassa fever, Ebola and such like and now Meningitis.

According to WHO rating Nigeria’s health indices is still at the base of the ladder because of the high rate of mortality recorded in maternal and child health care and now epidemics such as lassa fever, ebola, malaria, and currently meningitis is claiming more lives especially that of children, the vulnerable and indigent population.

Government clearly seems to neglect the good health of its people, otherwise what stops it from making budget for period like this. Government cannot claim ignorance of the current outbreak, after predictions made by the Meteorological Agency, NiMet, that the country would likely experience ‘’above danger heat stress’’ this year due to a combination of heat and humidity.

The agency had warned that the heat stress may lead to several illnesses, one of which is meningitis.

To put an end to outbreaks in the country, government should synergise with other countries in the meningitis belt to protect its citizens.

Government needs to wake up from its slumber to cater for its people by protecting them from health hazards such as meningitis and other illness and diseases; after all they voted them into power.

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