By Lawal A. Dogara, Kaduna
Nigerian Representative of the Department for International Department (DFID), Dr. Salma Kolo has said that the outbreak of Cerebrospinal meningitis, CSM, particularly in the north was an indication that northern Nigerian health care system is weak.
Dr. Kolo spoke Tuesday at the emergency meeting of Northern traditional leaders committee on Public Health Centre, and some north west State governors.
This was even as the Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal described the meningitis as a dangerous epidemic, saying that his State had recorded over 1000 cases so far.
Also, Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir El-rufai spoke on the occasion, saying that it was a matter of great sadness for governors to see the number of deaths recorded in their states due to meningitis
However, the DFID boss explained, “The outbreak of meningitis is an indication of weak health system in Northern Nigeria. And I want to use this opportunity to plead with the leaders, especially the Executive Governors to continue to put in more efforts in strengthening the health system, especially the primary healthcare system.
“Unfortunately we in Northern Nigeria are not privileged, the vulnerable groups are mainly women and children that are jobless, have no access to funds. Therefore, their care must be provided for free of charge, 100 per cent free of charge and that is possible. It has been demonstrated in Nigeria and we are beginning to see the outcome of such commitment through the work that we do with the state governments.
“The government of United Kingdom is concerned about the outbreak of meningitis in Northern Nigeria, just like it is concerned about the case of maternal and new born mortality. It sympathises with the government and people of Northern Nigeria and people of Nigeria in general.
“The United Kingdom government had immediately sent its contribution of 800,000 dozes of meningitis vaccines through WHO and that has been acknowledged and it is already being utilised in the country.
“As part of other programmes funded by the UK government, one of which is reduction and averting maternal death in Northern Nigeria and also improving child survival”.
It will be recalled that Cerebrospinal meningitis, CSM, has spread across 19 states in the country, with 3,959 suspected cases reported and 438 deaths recorded as at April 5, 2017. The Northern states have been worst hit by the epidemic as Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto, account for 93 percent of the cases.
Tambuwal said, “Meningitis is a very dangerous epidemic that has been ravaging many parts of the country. Collaborations between the governors and traditional leaders is vital.
“We had cases in seven local governments areas of Sokoto state, Bodinga, Dange Shuni, Wammako, Kafin Rafa, Gadabawa .. .with over 1, 000 cases of the disease recorded, we were on the threshold of having an epidemic.”
He said for the state to address the disease and stop it from becoming an epidemic, “an awareness campaign was set up, ventilation of living areas, decongestion of where out children are living. We received over 20, 000 doses of vaccine from the federal ministry of health, we are expecting over 800, 000 doses of the vaccine though our target is 2 million vaccine doses for most of our children between the ages of two and 29.
“We have had number of teams mobilised led by the state Commissioner for health. We have never witnessed this type of Type C meningitis in the state which is why we have so much challenge in the state.
The Convener of the meeting and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, who was represented by the Emir or Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris, said the meeting is timely and commendable. “Traditional leaders in coordination with stakeholders will do everything possible to assist in ensuring appropriate medical asistance promptly to avoid future outbreak of meningitis in the North.”
El-rufai, said, “It’s a matter of great sadness for us governors to see the number of deaths recorded in our states. North west has been battling with meningitis epidemic in the last few months. It has killed many of our people because it is a new strain; Type C that our people are not used to.
“The action taken by stakeholders has slowed down the rate of spread of the disease: vaccination, awareness and drugs. Our traditional leaders have also been of gear help, our people have greater trust in our royal fathers than any other institution.
“Here in Kaduna, we have recorded 17 sporadic suspected cases across 11 local government areas with one type C causing one death. We have instituted measures and hope, we have I tensioned surveillance, drugs and awareness, so far we have been successful.
“Our hope is that our traditional leaders will take this battle with the same zeal you toak the issue of polio that has been successful. We hope to ensure that our effort of promoting preventive primary healthcare will begin to get traction.”
WHO Country Representative, Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu said, “The current type C is a new one. It has never been known to cause this magnitude of outbreak, it used to be only sporadic cases. So, that has left us with no option than to rely on few of the tools that we have including few number vaccines that are available at global level, through the strategy contingency plan. The government has applied and has received and judiciously distributed to the affected places and the vaccination has taken place. More is coming on the way.
UNICEF County Representative, Dr. Muhammed Fall said, “Meningitis is a highly communicable disease, but it can be easily controlled through very simple improved hygiene measures, understanding the mode of transmission, early health seeking behaviour can help very much to roll back this disease.