~ Says $3.3m needed urgently to halt spread
By Our Correspondent
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has called for urgent wild spread vaccination against diphtheria in the midst of the reported outbreak of the disease, and following its discovery that a staggering 2.2 million Nigerian children were yet to receive the vaccine.
At the ongoing stakeholders workshop on Social Protection Policy formulation at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Agulu, Anambra State was said to be among states performing poorly on immunization as it is the only state in Southeast where Penta 3 coverage is on the decline.
The state also has the highest zero dose cumulative population in the zone, with 39,805 children of under 2 yet to receive first dose of Penta vaccine.
Across the country, UNICEF said the recent outbreak has so far resulted in over 11,500 suspected cases, more than 7,000 confirmed cases, and claimed the lives of 453 people, mostly children.
It also observed that most of the cases were children aged between 4 and 15 years who have not received even a single dose of the vital vaccine, laying bare the urgency of the vaccination situation in Nigeria.
A statement by UNICEF Nigeria said: “The devastating impact of this diphtheria outbreak is a grim reminder of the importance of vaccination.
“Nigeria is home to a staggering 2.2 million children who haven’t received even a single dose of vaccine – the second largest such cohort in the world.
“We must collectively take urgent actions to drastically reduce this number. Every child deserves protection from preventable diseases. This is not negotiable.”
UNICEF said that it is providing urgent support to the Nigerian government in its efforts to combat the outbreak, adding that a crucial part of the support includes the procurement of vaccines to support the government’s response. So far, UNICEF said it has deployed 9.3 million doses of diphtheria vaccines to affected states, including Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna and Jigawa.
“Of these, 4 million doses have been dispatched to Kano, the epicentre of the outbreak. Another 4 million doses of vaccines are being procured and will be handed over to government in the coming weeks,” the statement said.
It called on partners, stakeholders, and the international community to rally together to ensure that every child in Nigeria is reached with life-saving vaccines.
It also emphasized the importance of strengthening routine immunization, community engagement, and health systems to avoid similar outbreaks in the future.
The world body stated that to respond effectively to the outbreak, UNICEF Nigeria needs to raise an additional US$ 3.3 million until the end of the year.