The worst outbreak meningitis in nine years hit the nation recently. Since the first few cases recorded six months ago in Zamfara, it has been a struggle for the Health authorities to curtail it the spread went from Zamfara to the seven other states in the country where the epidemic burden was felt most.
As at 9th of May, there have been 13,420 suspected cases of meningitis, while the outbreak had claimed the lives of 1,069 Nigerians since the first case in late 2016.
The outbreak was not officially declared till February, 2017, and as such aid came late. The slow reaction of the country and a global shortage of vaccines have hindered the response and contributed significantly to the delay in aid that the country got and this raised mortality rates.
Sokoto, for one, required 3 million vaccines for a mass campaign, but only 800,000 were available. This was quite inadequate.
The response to the meningitis outbreak in Nigeria being led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and is picking up as the outbreak gradually declines in the most affected States.
A more recent campaign in Sokoto has led to a higher vaccination coverage achieved in targeted communities. The reaction to the campaign has been tremendous with a very high numbers of people at vaccination centres in Zamfara and Sokoto States.
More efforts are currently being made to secure more vaccines for the country. Alongside vaccination, the National Meningitis Emergency Operations Centre (NMEOC), with backing from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has deployed teams to the most affected States to maintain coordination, case management and surveillance activities. These teams help with sample collection and transportation, testing of samples, and the clinical care of meningitis patients. They also help in building the required capability to control the outbreak.
In addition, the NMEOC has commenced a national meningitis prevention campaign, to help drive prevention messages through the mass media, new media and community structures to reach households and communities in the 19 northern States of Nigeria, and the FCT. This will prevent further spread, as well as help the preparedness for any future outbreaks.
In the previous two weeks, the most affected States (Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina and Kebbi States) have all recorded a drop in number of cases. Kebbi and Niger States have reported no deaths over this period.
The Federal Government of Nigeria and partners will continue to work to reduce the effect of the current outbreak on affected communities and ensure that the outbreak is fully controlled. Planning has already started to prevent future outbreaks and ensure better preparedness.