•$1b needed to vaccinate 21m •Disease kills 489 in five states
Minister of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole has called on the Zamfara State Governor Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari to sanction those selling vaccines and life-saving drugs provided by the Federal Government for free.
Also yesterday, northern traditional leaders and governors moved to tame the outbreak in some parts of the region, as they held an emergency meeting in Kaduna.
Adewole, who spoke on the occasion, said $1 billion was required to vaccinate 21 million people in five meningitis endemic states.
He added that the outbreak has killed 489 persons in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kabbi, Niger and Katsina states.
According to him, 4,637 suspected cases have been recorded.
The minister said: “Meningitis vaccination is very expensive. To effectively stop meningitis in Nigeria, we need to vaccinate 21 million people in the five states, which will cost about $1 billion. We need Immunity Trust Fund to cater for immunisation. We need to put more money in health to build robust health system that is resilient. Nigeria would need to put more money on vaccine. Nigerian vaccine has been subsidised by Gavi. But in 2015, we said we are the largest economy in Africa, which means we can stand on our own. So, by 2025, Nigeria will need to fund its vaccines by itself.
“The state governments also need to put in more money on health. We want the state governments to support us to revitalise the PHC for every political ward to have at least one PHC. We need to put people there, community health extension workers, and to invest in routine immunisation.
“About seven million births are recorded annually. If we vaccinate all of them, we would protect them from meningitis and other diseases.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also blamed the outbreak of meningitis in some parts of the country, particularly Zamfara State, on lack of robust surveillance.
The global health body said the Zamfara outbreak was avoidable.
The health minister warned the Zamfara State governor that some people were selling the drugs sent by the Federal Government for the treatment of meningitis. “We must apprehend them,” he said.
Adewole, who spoke while visiting the state, called on the Yari to focus on strengthening the Primary Health Centre (PHC) system.
“Once the PHC system is in place, we can tackle not just this outbreak but 70 to 80 per cent of the cases of our people,” he said.
Adewole said any single case could have been easily reported at the PHC level and a response would have been activated and this scale of the outbreak would have been avoided.
“Next year dry season is coming again. We need to make sure that we are prepared to tackle the next outbreak,” he reminded.
WHO also yesterday blamed the outbreak of meningitis in some parts of the country, particularly Zamfara State, on lack of robust surveillance.
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) warned against the spread of the outbreak to the Northeast, which it said is already suffering from malnutrition.
The development partners spoke in Kaduna yesterday at the Emergency Meeting of northern traditional rulers and leaders.
WHO Country Representative, Wondimagegnehu Alemu said Nigeria, henceforth, needed to spend more and invest on outbreak investigation and detection, particularly in rolling out robust surveillance system.
He said 500 cases of meningitis discovered sometimes last year in Zamfara would have been avoided, if there was a robust surveillance system.
In his goodwill message, UNICEF County Representative, Mohammed Fall, said children in the Northeast were already facing the burden of malnutrition and the consequences of devastating conflicts. He warned that penetration of meningitis in the region would increase the burden.
Making presentation on the disease, the National Coordinator of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the outbreak started in Zamfara State in November, but they were only notified on February 7, and they deployed along with other stakeholders a week later.
“No fewer than 489 deaths have been recorded in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kabbi, Niger and Katsina State. And 4,637 suspected cases of meningitis have also been recorded”, said Dr. Ihekweazu.
Sokoto State Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal described the meningitis as a dangerous epidemic, saying that his state had recorded over 1000 cases so far.
According to him, ‘In Sokoto state, we had cases in about seven local governments. We had over 1000 cases reported and the state government had to mobilised with traditional leaders in the state and other stakeholders, particularly our development partners.
“We had a collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, we received over 20,000 vaccines from the ministry and we are expecting about 800,000 more vaccines, our target is to have 2 million vaccines for vaccinations to cover most of the areas.
“We have mobilised a team led by the Commissioner of Health. We have had challenges of drugs and challenges of health personnel as well”, he said.
Also, Kaduna State Governor Malam Nasir El-Rufai said it was a matter of great sadness for governors to see the number of deaths recorded in their states due to meningitis.
He lamented that the North West zone has been battling meningitis epidemic for the past two months, saying it was a type of meningitis that health care professionals in their states were not conversant with, the type C meningitis.
SOURCE: The Nation Newspaper