Medecin Sans Frontieres (MSF), otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, which is French international NGO, has called on the Federal Government to intensify the ongoing national vaccination against preventable diseases in the country
The organisation said the call was made on the heels of the unprecedented diphtheria outbreak recorded in several parts of the country, noting that close to 17,000 suspected cases of the disease have occurred which resulted in close to 600 deaths so far.
A development, the group noted, informed the current vaccination campaign mounted by three global authorities: World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, and MSF in 13 states, namely: Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Yobe, Lagos, Nasarawa, Osun, Plateau, Zamfara, and the FCT.
The call was contained in a statement signed by Abdulkareem Yakubu, communication specialist, of the group, which was made available to BusinessDay, in Kano.
According to the group, the North West state of Kano has recorded close to 12,000 incidence of the disease, and around 70 percent of these patients, who are currently admitted in MSF facilities in the state were discovered not to have been fully vaccinated or ever vaccinated at all, an indication of the alarmingly low vaccination coverage in the country.
“In the North-West, full vaccination coverage are of high concern, ranging from 6percent in Sokoto to 10% in Zamfara and 18percent in Katsina, against a national average of 36percent. In North-East the coverage is seemingly alarming, as only 15percent of the patients treated for diphtheria in our MSF facility in Gwange Pediatric Hospital in Maiduguri were fully vaccinated.
“While Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams commend the efforts of international and national bodies in arresting the outbreak, we wish to continue the call for a long term plans of routine immunization across the different states and local government areas of Nigeria to reach a maximum of children.
“Long term vaccinations is the only lasting solution to curb and prevent future outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, measles, polio, or tetanus that are responsible for numerous deaths every year.
“We encourage donor countries and institutions like GAVI, ECHO or Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to invest in vaccination both on the short term to curb ongoing outbreaks but mostly through a long-term plan to increase the country’s vaccination coverage, but also regionally as cases of diphtheria are being reported in neighbouring countries,” the group stated.
The group also noted that in response to the diphtheria outbreak which started early 2023, it has been supporting two diphtheria treatment centers with a total capacity of 146 beds. While, its medical teams also implement a decentralised strategy in collaboration with the authorities supporting other hospitals and health facilities across different LGAs and through health promotion activities to raise awareness among the population.
According the statement, the group has, in Maiduguri, Borno State, opened a 20-bed diphtheria treatment clinic in the pediatric hospital in Gwange and treating about 448 patients, and in Bauchi State, a diphtheria treatment center with 20-bed capacity has also been opened in Ganjuwa Hospital that is currently treating about 173 patients.
The group promised to continue to support the Ministry of Health and international organisations to push for vaccination campaigns across the different states.