Nigeria: 520 Kano Children Die in Diphtheria Outbreak

20 September 2023

The outbreak of diphtheria in Kano State has killed no fewer than 520 children so far.

The director-general of the state's Primary Healthcare Development Agency (PHDA), Muhammad Nasir Muhammad, disclosed this in a keynote address he delivered yesterday at a one-day orientation for media practitioners on the outbreak of diphtheria disease in Kano.

He attributed the situation to poor routine immunisation which found a higher number of zero doses among the children in the state.

Muhammad decried the shortage of diphtheria vaccine in Kano which has about 8,000 confirmed cases representing 80 percent of the total.

"The state received 200,000 doses of vaccine which is less than one million doses after the outbreak of the disease. But according to our findings, we need over 6 million children to be vaccinated," he said.

He called on the federal government and development partners to do something urgent for the speedy and effective control of the disease while appreciating UNICEF for its commitment.

Earlier, the chief field officer of UNICEF in Kano, Rahama Mohammed Farah, described diphtheria as a threat to children and their wellbeing.

"It is very important to understand that the analysis of the vaccination status of the suspected cases shows that 60.8% of all suspected cases are children who were not vaccinated," he noted.

"As of last week, over 400 suspected cases with 11 deaths have been reported in Kano State.

"The eight most affected local government areas include Ungogo 2,651, Dala 989, Fagge 943, Gwale 714 and Kumbotso 713.

"Others are Nasarawa 538, Kano Municipal 506 and Tarauni 269.

"UNICEF is therefore collaborating with the government and partners to respond to the emergency to save lives of children affected."

The chief of UNICEF Kano Field Office added that the office supported the diphtheria response since the first case of the diphtheria disease in December 2022.

He said the outbreak needs to be urgently stopped, controlled, and prevented from spreading.

"Last week, UNICEF delivered 1.2 million vaccines to the Kano State government in our continuing support to the government for a response to the diphtheria outbreak. Diphtheria is a highly contagious, infectious disease that can cause death.

"The media has a key role to play, particularly in infection prevention risk communication and community engagement. You will need to educate the public and increase the awareness of parents and communities on the disease and the outbreak, on the importance of immunisation, and what parents need to do in case of suspected cases and how to prevent infection from further spreading," he added.

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