26.7 million Nigerians at Risk of Meningitis

**As Over 10,000 Meningitis Cases Occur Annually

By Adedapo Adesanya

The prevalence of meningitis in Nigeria may see the number of casualties to continue to rise if necessary preventive measures are not taken, as official statistics show that over 10,000 cases occur annually across 25 states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the country.

This was identified during the flag-off ceremony for the introduction of the Meningitis A Conjugate Vaccine which will help combat the disease into the routine Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) schedule, the Executive Director (ED) of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, noted that the disease remained a global challenge which doesn’t exempt Nigeria.

According to Dr Shuaib, speaking at the Area 2 Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) on August 9, 2019, “25 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) fall within the meningitis belt; putting 26.7 million Nigerians at risk of meningitis,” out of the nearly 200 million living in the country.

The Executive Director stated that last year alone, there were 4,516 reported cases in Nigeria, 318 serious cases and 364 deaths compared to the year before (2017), where the number was higher, noting that there were 14,766 cases were reported with 1,207 deaths.

Speaking on the disease, he said, “Meningococcal meningitis is the bacterial form of meningitis; a devastating disease associated with high fatality (up to 50 percent when untreated) and high frequency (more than 10 percent) of severe complications.”

Dr Shuaib then stated that vaccines were available that would ensure the prevention and control of meningitis outbreaks and urged mothers to ensure their children are vaccinated from the disease.

In his remarks at the flag off ceremony, WHO Officer in Charge (OiC) for Nigeria, Dr Clement Peter congratulated the Government of Nigeria for the important milestone of the introduction of Meningitis A vaccine, which is in line with WHO recommendations.

“The vaccine is safe and effective and will protect Nigerian children from a dreadful disease. I seize this opportunity to encourage parents and caregivers to visit health facilities and outreach sites to have their children vaccinated. No child should be denied the opportunity to receive lifesaving vaccines for a healthy and productive future, to build a thriving nation,” he affirmed.

Also, lending a voice to the issue was the Deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, she said: “Meningitis has been a scourge across Africa’s meningitis belt for generations, however this vaccine has made a massive difference in bringing this disease under control,”

“This further expansion in Nigeria’s immunization programme has the potential to save hundreds of lives every year across Nigeria and shows the government’s commitment to protecting every child in the country against deadly, preventable diseases,” She concluded.

The meningococcal A conjugate vaccine for Nigeria, procured with funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is part of its wider commitment to boosting Nigeria’s low immunization coverage and to stem further fatalities arising from the vaccine preventable disease.

In their goodwill messages, representatives of Permanent Secretaries of FCT and Federal Ministry of Health, as well His Royal Highness, Alhaji Idris Musa, the paramount traditional ruler of FCT, pleaded with community members to benefit from immunization services and admonished health workers to treat caregivers respectfully and build enduring relationships with the communities they serve to ensure smooth delivery of laudable programmes.

They all appreciated the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners for being on ground to support vaccination activities at points of delivery. Other partners at the epoch-making event included UNICEF, AFENET, USAID, Red Cross Society of Nigeria and Vaccine Network for Disease Control.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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