19 June 2017
Caritas Nigeria worked with communities, government and other state actors, to combat meningitis after an outbreak hit 25 states across Nigeria, with each state reporting different levels of infections.
According to Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC), the meningitis epidemic, which started on the 13th of December 2016, has claimed the lives of 1,158 persons among the cases reported. The three North Western States of Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina were the most affected.
Historically, the outbreak in Nigeria has been due to Neisseria meningitides type A. However, in this new epidemic outbreak, 371 of the 460 confirmed cases reported by NCDC had Neisseria meningitides serogroup C. The constraint of vaccine availability to combat this new epidemic was a challenge that government alone could not shoulder, as the disease was spreading fast and Caritas Nigeria had to act faster, to help combat the outbreak through various interventions.
Caritas Nigeria, began by creating awareness about preventive measures to reduce the spread of the outbreak. Subsequently, this year’s World Meningitis Day, which was on the 24th of April 2017, coincided with the time when massive intervention towards stemming the epidemic of meningitis outbreak in Nigeria began. The theme for this year “TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS”, as adopted by the global body, CoMO, is very apt for the Nigerian situation.
To commemorate this year’s World Meningitis Day, Caritas Nigeria embarked on massive sensitization campaigns creating public awareness about how meningitis is transmitted, how to prevent its transmission, and how it can be treated, within the Federal Capital Territory and Markudi, the capital of Benue State. These interventions included immunization with polyvalent polysaccharide meningitis vaccine, community awareness programs, road shows, and radio talk shows, to name a few.
Caritas Nigeria’s pool of human resources, comprising doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other allied health workers, excitedly swung into action at defined locations within communities of interventions, to provide vaccination to a large number of beneficiaries who turned out to access these services. Mobile clinic stations were set up with the aid of Caritas Nigeria’s customized e-Rangers, and banners, fliers and handbills, made with strategic messages about meningitis from CoMO’s campaign toolkit, were distributed during the road show as part of the effort to raise community awareness about the deadly disease.
While reflecting on the outbreak and Caritas Nigeria’s interventions, Treatment Advisor Dr. Lanre Olayiwola had this to say: “this outbreak is a call to action for the country to be proactive rather than reactive to situations and conditions that are predictable by science but still causing preventable deaths and disaster in our dear country. The ranking of Nigeria as Number 152 among 188 countries in the Human Development Index by UNDP is largely due to occurrences of this nature. National institutions should be strengthened, to not only respond, but be proactive in preventing all manner of disaster that could embarrass Nigeria among the committee of nations”.
Similarly, a radio talk show that featured Rev Fr. Obodechina and Dr. Lanre Olayiwola provided an additional platform for information dissemination to the public with a view to enlightening them on the cause, course and prevention of meningitis. It is therefore not surprising that there has been a dramatic decline in the number of reported cases and a complete halt to epidemic level outbreaks in the country.
Having successfully marked this year’s World Meningitis Day with this remarkable contribution to global effort at stopping meningitis epidemics, Caritas Nigeria would like to use this medium to call on everyone to rise and ‘trust their instincts’ and say never again will there be an epidemic of meningitis in Nigeria. Caritas Nigeria recognizes the fact that national development is a responsibility of all and that it is important for everyone to contribute their own little quota to human development. Like the saying goes: “tiny drops of water, make a mighty ocean”.
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Caritas Nigeria has been an Associate member of CoMO since April 2017. Their health portfolio is robust and covers broadly communicable and non-communicable diseases including malaria, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and meningitis.