The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that majority of those infected with diphtheria were not immunized against the disease.
UNICEF said in a statement on Thursday, August 3, that as of July, 3,850 suspected cases of diphtheria have been reported in the country, out of which 1,387 were confirmed positive in 27 states. The disease has claimed 122 lives, with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 8.7 percent.
Cristian Munduate, UNICEF representative in Nigeria, said most of the affected children, especially those who died, had not received a single dose of the diphtheria vaccine.
The statement read;
“The outbreak has affected mainly Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Lagos, FCT, Sokoto, and Zamfara, which account for 98.0 percent of the suspected cases.
“Most confirmed cases, approximately 71.5 percent, have occurred among children aged two – 14 years. It’s heartbreaking to note that only 22 percent of the confirmed cases received their routine childhood immunisation vaccinations.
“Many children did not receive their vaccines during the COVID-19 lockdown. We now urgently need to catch up. These zero-dose children, those who haven’t received a single dose of vaccine, are a primary concern.
“The need to reach the unreached has never been more critical. UNICEF’s commitment extends to several key interventions, including planning, implementing, and funding risk communication; transporting vaccines and related equipment to the affected states and strengthening routine immunisation; training health workers and volunteers for service delivery, risk communication, community engagement; and supervising outbreak response activities.
“In light of these sobering statistics, UNICEF Nigeria urges all parents and guardians to ensure their children receive routine immunizations to protect them from preventable diseases like diphtheria.
“The agency will continue to intensify efforts to address the ongoing outbreak and work alongside the government to achieve a healthier, safer future for every Nigerian child.”
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection caused by the corynebacterium species that affect the nose, throat, and sometimes, skin of an individual. Some symptoms of diphtheria include fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, red eyes, neck swelling, and difficulty in breathing.