Diphtheria Outbreak: 2.2 million Nigerian children require urgent vaccination, 453 lives claimed —UNICEF

By Williams Ago, Gombe
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), has called for widespread vaccination against Diphtheria following confirmed cases of it's spread across Nigeria.

Sounding the warning in a Press Release issued by UNICEF's Communication Assistant, Nchekwube Nwosu-Igbo, it said the outbreak has so far resulted in over 11,500 suspected cases, more than 7,000 confirmed cases and has already claimed the lives of 453 people who are mostly children.

To respond effectively to the outbreak, UNICEF Nigeria says it needs to raise an additional US$3.3 million until the end of the year, adding, "so far, on behalf of the government, UNICEF has deployed 9.3 million doses of diphtheria vaccines to Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna and Jigawa States, who are mostly affected.”

Of these, UNICEF said, four (4) million doses have been dispatched to Kano, the epicentre of the outbreak while another four (4) million doses of the vaccines are being procured and will be handed over to government in the coming weeks.

It explained that most of those affected are children aged between four (4) to fifteen (15) years who have not received even a single dose of of the vital vaccine, laying bare the urgency of the vaccination situation in Nigeria.

"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 cohort in the world.

"We must collectively take urgent action to drastically reduce this number. Every child deserve protection from preventable diseases. This is not negotiable," the release quoted Dr. Rownak Khan, UNICEF Representative.

UNICEF Nigeria is therefore calling on all partners, stakeholders and the international community to rally together to ensure that every child in Nigeria is reached with life-saving vaccines.

The children's agency emphasized the importance of strengthening routine immunization, community engagement and health systems to avoid similar outbreaks in future.
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