MSF: Nigeria still being ravaged by Meningitis outbreak

The Nigerian Ministry of Health is struggling to come to terms with the meningitis outbreak that has plagued that country this year.

The Nigerian Ministry of Health is struggling to come to terms with the meningitis outbreak that has plagued that country this year. 

Six months into the epidemic, seven of Nigeria's states continue to be adversely affected by the outbreak, which has now claimed more than 1000 lives. Authorities say about 10 000 suspected cases had been reported at the start of May and there are no signs that this outbreak will be nipped in the bud soon.

According to a team from Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the worst affected states are Zamfara and Sokoto. While reactionary measures are being taken,MSF is not convinced that tremendous headway is being made in that regard.

The responses thus far simply aren't adequate and MSF says the responses have also been far too late, adding that there is just no justification, given the meningitis history in that country. The lack of preparedness is startling. That has been compounded by the global shortage of the meningitis C vaccine.

Philip Aruna is the MSF's Head of Mission in Nigeria, and has been directly involved in the efforts to try and stem the outbreak. He said the meningitis was spreading fast, adding that the sheer size of the Nigerian population made the task increasingly difficult.

"The outbreak is spreading fast and we are concerned because there are not enough vaccines to cover the affected population," said Aruna.

There are currently about 25 MSF teams operating in Nigeria,and they embarked on an aggressive campaign this month, where 850 people were being vaccinated every day. Under normal circumstances that is a considerable amount but in the Nigerian context, it is a drop in the ocean.

An additional campaign will be launched later this month, by MSF, in an attempt to limit the damage that has been caused, as the fight against the outbreak becomes more urgent. This is officially the worst meningitis outbreak since 2008.

By Siya Mchunu

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