NCDC decries lack of manpower, funds to tackle Meningitis
By Christiana Ekpa
The National Centre for Diseases Control NCDC yesterday disclosed that the agency is not well funded and does not have enough manpower and equipment to tackle the latest outbreak of Meningitis which has led to the death of over 328 Nigerians and affected 16 states in the country
Also the representative of the Executive Secretary of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Emmanuel Oduh disclosed that, 1.1 billion dollar is needed to vaccinate over 2 million people in the affected states.
Speaking before the Senate Committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Disease, National Coordinator of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said the poor budgetary allocation for the Centre in the 2016 budget has hampered its activities.
“This specific meningitis outbreak started in second week of December and has been increasing since then. With a total of 2524 cases in which 131 confirmed to be bacterial meningitis we had 328 deaths. The 5 most affected states are Zamfara which is the epic enter of the outbreak and where it started, Sokoto, katsina, Kebbi and Niger.
“We have sixteen states that have reported at least one case but these five states really carry t he burden f the disease”
He said Nigeria has had a series of meningitis outbreak over the past 30 years. “It came in circles. It affects mostly what we call the meningitis belt which goes across west Africa including western Nigeria”
“However, three years ago there was a broad wide spread vaccination campaign with a new vaccine, meningitis B which wiped out the strain of meningitis that use to cause the previous cycles of outbreaks. Now what has happened is that a new strain has emerged in Nigeria Meningitis C. It is not new in the world but it is new in our context. For meningitis C there is no commonly available vaccine”
“The situation is that there is a lilted stock of global vaccines available you cannot access those stocks unless you have a proven outbreak.
“We send a team to Zamfara to analyze the danger of the menace and then make an application to the WHO to release some vaccines. We now have the vaccines. At the National level we have set up a National Emergency Operations Centre pulling together all the partners, Who, UNICEF to coordinate our response so that we speak with one voice and support the state.
“The response is around three broad arrears, prevention, it is a pretty tough disease, associated a lot with overcrowding, hot weather.
Make sure homes are well violated and practice good hygiene, it is a respiratory virus that gets into the bloodstream that causes inflammation”
According to him, “There is a need to work with the minister to raise our voices that it is not acceptable to be this type of situation year after year. We need preventive vaccines to be available in Nigeria before outbreaks happen.
We have a surveillance system over past few weeks while we know the number is because we have a surveillance. We have treatment centres as tabled in the 5 states already .Odu on the other said, “To vaccinate 2 million in the five affected sates will cost 1.1 billion dollars. Over the past, It we had bought with that sum of money and stocked them, like 4 years when there were no cases it would have amounted to wastage of money. The vaccine is also scarce meningitis”
“Between 2011 and 2014 vaccination campaign had taken place. 500,000 doses were delivered and distributed to the affected states. In addition to that 823 000 are expected in the country. These will be distributed any time’
“They are coming from the United Kingdom. Campaigns are ongoing.
Procurement aspect, the National primary Healthcare Development Agency also has effective presence in the state level.”
“Meningitis can kill. Availability of vaccines is dependent on the situation. The cost is also another issue. To vaccinate 2 million in the five affected sates will cost 1.1 billion dollars. Over the past, It we had bought with that sum of money and stocked them, like 4 years when ther were no cases it would have amounted to wastage of money. The vaccine is also scarce meningitis”
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Disease, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa urged the centre for disease control to develop mechanism for the local production of the preventive vaccines.
“We need weekly report on the progress of work, ranging from response to treatment, number of death and all that.
States like Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto should be up and doing. They shouldn’t just wit for us but you need to collaborate with them and give them the lead so that we get to where we should.” He urged
“We also need weekly status of vaccines, the availability the number of doses you are able to procure and what we are expecting. We need to know.
We intend to visit some of the hospitals to commensurate with the states affected “
‘We will invite the minister especially with regard to the treatment, the number of hospitals dedicated to the treatment and other details”
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has assured the Ministry of Health of the Senate’s commitment to supporting all efforts to put an end to the outbreak of meningitis in the country.
In a series of tweets on his @BukolaSaraki handle, the Senate President stated that he had spoken with the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, to assure him of the Senate’s commitment to help end the epidemic.