Save the Children (SCI) has raised the alarm over a staggering 7,202 cases of diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria.
It said the cases are skyrocketing and children are severely affected.
SCI further said currently only 42% of children under 15 in Nigeria are fully protected from diphtheria, and in this most recent outbreak, 80% of the confirmed cases have been found to be people who are unvaccinated.
Save the Children’s Interim Country Director for Nigeria, Faton Krasniqi in a press release said in coordination with local authorities, Save the Children is launching a wide-scale health response in the three most impacted states of Kano, Yobe and Katsina. Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit is deploying expert health and supply chain staff to help over-stretched clinics to detect and treat diphtheria cases and to support with mass vaccination campaigns across the worst hit areas.
Faton said however, Save the Children is warning a mass vaccination campaign will only be successful if the vaccine shortage is urgently dealt with. Severe shortages in Nigeria of the required vaccine and the antitoxin needed to treat the disease mean the situation could continue to escalate placing many children at risk of severe illness and death, said the child rights organisation.
“The entire humanitarian community is alert to the crisis here. We are coordinating closely together and working alongside the Nigerian Ministry of Health to ensure we reach everyone who needs treatment and to contain the spread of the disease.
“Diphtheria can be fatal in more than 10% of cases, but this can increase in places like overcrowded displacement camps or informal settlements in cities, where families have limited access to health services or where health facilities are overwhelmed.
“The response to this outbreak requires an urgent injection of funding and a large supply of vaccines to ensure we can contain it, and to save children’s lives.”
SCI further called on donors to support the comprehensive response being launched by the government, UN, and aid agencies to support local health services to cope with the influx of diphtheria cases, procure more vaccines and to roll out a mass vaccination campaign.
“Save the Children has been working in Nigeria since 2001, providing food, clean water, nutrition and protection services, sexual and reproductive health care, and education to families across the country.
“Save the Children is also providing technical support to the government on policy changes and reforms, especially in critical sectors such as health, education, and social protection, among others,” Faton said .