The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday said it has deployed a total of 9.3 million doses of diphtheria vaccines to tackle what it described as the most severe and unprecedent outbreak in global history.
The UN agency raised the alarm on the urgent need for Nigerian governmnet to begin widespread vaccination, particularly in affected States. It added that Nigeria needs to raise an additional US$ 3.3 million until the end of the year, to respond effectively to the outbreak.
The outbreak has so far resulted in over 11,500 suspected cases, more than 7,000 confirmed cases, and claimed the lives of 453 people, mostly children. Most cases are children aged between 4 to 15 years who have not received even a single dose of the vital vaccine, laying bare the urgency of the vaccination situation in Nigeria, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.
“UNICEF is providing urgent support to the Nigerian government in its efforts to combat the outbreak. A crucial part of this support includes the procurement of vaccines to support the government’s response. So far, on behalf of the government, UNICEF has deployed 9.3 million doses of diphtheria vaccines to affected states including Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna and Jigawa”, the statement read.
Of the total vaccine doses, four million doses have been dispatched to Kano, the epicentre of the outbreak; and another 4 million doses of vaccines are being procured and will be handed over to the Nigerian government in the coming weeks.
Commenting on the situation, Rownak Khan, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria said, “The devastating impact of this diphtheria outbreak is a grim reminder of the importance of vaccination. Nigeria is home to a staggering 2.2 million children who haven’t received even a single dose of vaccine – the second largest such cohort in the world. We must collectively take urgent actions to drastically reduce this number. Every child deserves protection from preventable diseases. This is not negotiable.”
The agency consequently called on partners, stakeholders, and the international community to rally together to ensure that every child in Nigeria is reached with life-saving vaccines.
The children’s agency emphasizes the importance of strengthening routine immunization, community engagement, and health systems to avoid similar outbreaks in the future.