Meningitis-$1.1 Billion Required to Save 22 MIllion Nigerians

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Dr. Emmanuel Odu, The acting director-general of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), yesterday told the Senate that a whopping sum of $1.1 billion was currently required for the vaccination of 22 million persons in the five states affected by the outbreak of the Type C cerebrospinal meningitis disease.

About 328 Nigerians are said to have died after contacting the disease.

Apart from the five affected states namely Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Niger where the situation is said to be acute, 16 other states have recorded at least one case each of the disease.

Also, the chief executive officer (CEO)/national coordinator of the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, told the Senate yesterday that the vaccination for the Type C strain of the cerebrospinal meningitis disease will commence tomorrow, following the procurement of the vaccines from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Ihekweazu said the vaccine was only procured two weeks ago as the criteria for application are that the country must be experiencing an outbreak.

Briefing the Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and communicable Diseases on efforts being made to contain the outbreak, NPHCDA DG, Odu, also said each vaccine cost between $30 and $50; adding that the vaccine is expensive and scarce.

Dr. Ihekweazu also briefed the committee on efforts being made to contain the epidemic, saying that the Type C strain of the disease was new to West Africa, hence the seeming unpreparedness to tackle it.

But the senate committee noted that the widespread outbreak would have been averted if relevant agencies had commenced campaigns to raise awareness on preventive measures when it first started in December 2016.

Ihekweazu told the lawmakers that the center, working in collaboration with the state governments, Ministry of Health, and the National Primary Healthcare Commission, has adopted a three pronged line of action for prevention, early detection and pushing hard to ensure the vaccines are available.

“This disease is associated with overcrowding, particularly in this weather. We cannot tell people not to overcrowd their homes but would continue to advise them to make sure their homes are well ventilated and to observe good personal hygiene”, he said.

Ihekweazu added that, while available treatments work when the disease is detected early, most victims arrive the hospital late for various reasons.

He said the center has however enlisted community and traditional rulers to help persuade their people to go to the hospital immediately they feel sick.
He further harped on the need for the procurement of adequate vaccines to immunize Nigerians ahead of 2018 heat season.

He also admitted that, while the center has sent support teams to Zamfara and other affected states for rapid response alongside the establishment of treatment centers, not much has been done with the 16 states that are not fully affected, adding that the 16 states would however be part of the center’s response approach.

He explained that the center was however hampered by inadequate funding and limited manpower.

The Committee Chairman, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa (Abia North), lamented that awareness remains low across the country.

“If this had been detected early, then we would have had rounds of vaccinations and would not be having this epidemic”, he said.

Senator Boroffice Ajayi (Ondo North) also blamed lack of sensitisation campaigns for the widespread outbreak.

He said, “Since it showed up in the second week of December, the alert to the public is not good enough, particularly as it is known that affected people come late to hospital. This may be because many people do not know how it presents.”

Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki has assured that the Senate would provide the necessary support to the Ministry of Health in the bid to contain and end the outbreak.

Saraki, in a series of tweets on his twitter handle, disclosed that he has spoken with the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, to assure him of the Senate’s commitment to help end the epidemic.

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