The Federal Government has said no fewer than 20,574 Cerebrospinal Meningitis-related deaths have been recorded in the country between 2016 and 2020.
The Director, Special Duties and Technical Lead for the National Cerebrospinal Meningitis Technical Working Group of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Priscilla Ibekwe, in an interview with journalists in Abuja, said Africa had over 50 per cent of the meningitis burden in the world.
She called for a concerted effort to realise the 2030 global target to wipe out the disease, urging Nigerians to live in well-ventilated apartments, avoid overcrowded places, and maintain good respiratory hygiene.
“Between 2016 and 2017, there was a massive outbreak of meningitis in Nigeria with over 14,542 people were affected, and nearly 1,200 deaths. Through the work of the technical working group and a lot of effort at the state level, as we raised the awareness about meningitis, people started trying to prevent it and get quickly to the hospital.
“In 2017 and 2018, we had about 3,500 people with meningitis, and those numbers are beginning to fall; in 2018 and 2019, we had about 1,532 people that were affected. Last year it was less than 1,000. And we are hoping that we will continue to make concerted efforts across the country.
“We have nine years to go to make sure we kick out meningitis globally, especially in Africa because we know that the global burden of meningitis, over 50 per cent of it is in Africa alone,” Ibekwe said.
According to her, although there was under-reporting of some diseases, practicing social distancing and avoiding crowded environments, would have contributed to the real reductions in Nigeria which has now put meningitis A vaccine in the routine care.
Ibekwe said through the campaign of putting meningitis A vaccine in the routine care, a lot of awareness had been raised, adding that the country should not go to sleep.
The Head of Risk Communication at the NCDC, Dr. Yahaya Disu, said, “Meningitis is still endemic because those that are affected by the disease do not understand the roles that they need to play. This will make us engage all the relevant stakeholders to play their roles.
“We must engage the policymakers because there are things that are within the control of the people, and there are things that are outside their control. Issues of hand hygiene and other things are personal things that people need to do, but when it comes to vaccination – making it available, accessible, and making sure that the vaccine is available in a form that is efficacious, this is the role of policymakers.”