The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said the Diphtheria outbreak has claimed 122 lives with a case fatality rate of 8.7 per cent in 27 states in Nigeria.
The United Nations agency explained that as of July 2023, 3,850 suspected cases were reported in the country with 1,387 confirmed as diphtheria.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Ms. Cristian Munduate, who disclosed in a statement issued to journalists in Katsina, on Thursday, stated that the victims of the disease were mostly children.
She identified Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Lagos, FCT, Sokoto, and Zamfara, as worst hit states, which account for 98 per cent of the suspected cases, adding that 71.5 per cent of the cases occurred among children aged between two to 14 years.
She said: “UNICEF Nigeria is amplifying its efforts to counter a growing outbreak of diphtheria that has affected children in 27 states. As of July 2023, 3,850 suspected cases were reported with 1,387 confirmed as diphtheria. The disease has tragically claimed 122 lives, with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 8.7 per cent.
“The outbreak has affected mainly Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Lagos, FCT, Sokoto, and Zamfara, which account for 98.0 per cent of the suspected cases. Most confirmed cases, approximately 71.5 per cent, have occurred among children aged 2 – 14 years.”
He reiterated that most of the affected children, especially those who died, had not received a single dose of the vaccine, adding that the need to reach the unreached has never been more critical in the country.
Munduate, who described the situation as heartbreaking, however, noted that only 22 per cent of the confirmed cases received their routine childhood immunisation vaccinations.
She said UNICEF was collaborating with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the affected States and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to provide technical support to plan and operationalise response.
The UNICEF country representative expressed the agency’s commitment to supplying laboratory consumables and biosafety cabinets for testing of suspected cases at the NCDC.
She added that the agency would implement and fund risk communication and community engagement activities as well as transporting vaccines and related equipment to the affected states to strengthen routine immunisation.
Munduate, stressed that the agency would also train health workers and volunteers for service delivery, risk communication and community engagement, and procure and supply face masks, and hand sanitisers as well as antibiotics to treat the disease.