The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Nigeria office, has advocated urgent need for widespread vaccination over unprecedented diphtheria outbreak in the country.
UNICEF noted that the outbreak has resulted in over 11,500 suspected cases, with more than 7,000 confirmed cases which have killed 453 people, mostly children between 4 to 15 years.
The agency said this was coming in the midst of a most severe diphtheria outbreak in recent global history. And to further respond effectively, UNICEF Nigeria says it needs to raise an additional $3.3m before the year runs out.
UNICEF in a report noted that most of the cases are children who have not received any single dose of the vital vaccine, laying bare the urgency of the vaccination situation in Nigeria.
In a statement issued on the development, Dr. 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.”
Khan said UNICEF was already providing urgent support to the Nigerian government in its efforts to combat the outbreak, with its crucial part being the procurement of vaccines to boost the official response.
He said, “So far, on behalf of the government, UNICEF had deployed 9.3 million doses of diphtheria vaccines to states that are affected, which include Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna and Jigawa.
“For Kano State alone which is the epicentre of the outbreak, we have dispatched four million doses. Currently, another four million doses of vaccines are being procured, which will be handed over to the government in the coming weeks,” UNICEF states.
Khan said that is why UNICEF Nigeria is calling on partners, stakeholders, and the international community to rally round to ensure that every child in Nigeria is reached with life-saving vaccines, stressing the importance of strengthening routine immunization, community engagement, and health systems to prevent similar outbreaks in the future.