Humanitarian body, the Red Cross Society, has appealed to the Nigerian public for collaboration in its latest campaign against the diphtheria outbreak currently affecting 32 out of 36 Nigerian states.
The National President of the Society, Prince Oluyemisi Adeaga, revealed that Diphtheria outbreak was officially declared in January, with 111 confirmed cases, 22 recorded deaths, and a case fatality rate of 19.8%. He noted that the most affected states were Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Sokoto, and Enugu since the first cases showed up in December 2022 in Lagos and Kano.
Oluyemisi Adeaga, The National President of the Red Cross Society
The lack of active case finding, contact tracing, and vaccinations have resulted in an over 20% fatality rate, making the Red Cross focus on vulnerable populations, including zero-dose children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. A zero-dose child os a child that has never been vaccinated.
A recent technical analysis revealed that the outbreak is the worst in ten years, and could get worse without quick intervention. Other factors contributing to its spread include inadequate immunisation campaigns and testing, as well as difficulties getting to impacted areas.
“Through the efforts of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies-Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, we utilised CHF 430,654 (Swiss Francs) in the first round of operation.
“Now, things have changed. The NRCS now recognising that the NEEDS have increased, now seeks to raise CHF 5.4 million (Swiss Francs), which is about $4.736 million, to help it reach more people across 12 of the affected states,” Adeaga stated.
Nigeria’s current diphtheria outbreak has been described as one of the most severe outbreaks of diphtheria in the country in recent years, with resultant morbidity and mortality, especially in children.
As efforts continue to manage the situation, the Red Cross says it plans to provide logistics support to 2,620 vaccination teams in high-dose and hard-to-reach areas for Td and Routine vaccination.
According to Adeaga, the body will also train approximately 2,000 NRCS volunteers to support contact tracing activities and active case finding in partnership with the state surveillance officers and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by bacteria that can lead to difficulty in breathing, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), and even death.