.To raise additional $3.3m before end of 2023.
By AKOR SYLVESTER-Abuja
In the midst of the most severe diphtheria outbreak in recent global history, the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) Nigeria has raised alarm about the urgent need for widespread vaccination.
The fund said the outbreak of diphtheria 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.
According to UNICEF, Most cases are children aged between 4 to 15 years who have not received even a single dose of the vital vaccine, laying bare the urgency of the vaccination situation in Nigeria.
UNICEF therefore said it is providing urgent support to the Nigerian government in its efforts to combat the outbreak.
It disclosed that a crucial part of this support includes the procurement of vaccines to support the government’s response.
The fund said, so far, on behalf of the government, it has deployed 9.3 million doses of diphtheria vaccines to affected states including Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna and Jigawa.
It maintained that, of these, 4 million doses have been dispatched to Kano, the epicentre of the outbreak, while another 4 million doses of vaccines are being procured and will be handed over to government in the coming weeks.
“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”, said Dr. Rownak Khan, UNICEF Representative.
The UNICEF Nigeria called on partners, stakeholders, and the international community to rally together to ensure that every child in Nigeria is reached with life-saving vaccines.
The fund said the children’s agency emphasizes the importance of strengthening routine immunization, community engagement, and health systems to avoid similar outbreaks in the future.
To respond effectively to the outbreak, UNICEF Nigeria said it needs to raise an additional US$ 3.3 million until the end of the year.