By Shuaib Sadiq
Kaduna – The Federal Government says it needs more than one billion dollars for vaccines to eradicate meningitis epidemic in the five most affected states in the Northern region.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Issac Adewole, disclosed this while addressing an emergency meeting of the Northern Traditional Council and the 19 Northern state Governors on Tuesday in Kaduna.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting was convened by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, to outline measures to tackle the outbreak of meningitis epidemic in five states of the Northern region.
Adewole said that the federal needed $1.087 billion to procure vaccines and administer on some 21 million persons against the meningitis which broke out in February in Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger and Katsina states.
He said the federal government had collaborated with the state governments and International ievelopment partners to tackle the outbreak in some 26 states so far affected in the country.
According to him, so far, 489 deaths had been confirmed in the 4,637 cases recorded as at April 10.
He said that among the cases, 171 were confirmed to be the Type `C’ of meningitis strand with Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Niger and Kebbi states as most affected.
He said that the so far 823,000 doses of conjugated type C had been delivered to the federal government by the UK government, while UNICEF had delivered over one million Type A vaccines.
The minister said the vaccines were enough to tackle the outbreak in the most affected states.
He appealed to the traditional rulers in the region to be more proactive with media and other forms of campaigns to sensitise people on the need for good hygiene and ventilation as well as avoid overcrowding in their homes.
Adewole, however, appealed to State Governments to increase their funding of the health sector to address the health challenges in the region.
He urged the governors to invest more funds to revitalise the health system in the northern states to tackle healthcare challenges.
He explained that the country needed to increase its funding from the $85 million to $378 million by 2025 to be able to meet up with the health challenges.
Adewole said the federal government had embarked on upgrading of 10,000 primary healthcare centres across the country.
The minister also urged state governments to tackle corruption among state officials to enable them strengthen the weak health system in the region.
“You must stop corruption, when funds are released, utilise the funds properly by tracking and proper monitoring.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum and Gov. Abdulazeez Yari of Zamfara said the state was worse hit by the meningitis due to lack of information for early detection.
He said the state had confirmed 216 deaths out of the 2,350 cases recorded in the state since the disease broke out.
Yari said the state had received 45,000 doses of vaccines and so far no new case had been detected in the last three days.
He said a high powered committee had been established by the governors and the traditional rulers to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the measures being taken to stop the scourge in the region.
NAN reports that representatives of WHO, UNICEF, DFID and NEMA, among others, attended the event.
A communiqué is expected at the end of the meeting with resolutions on the way forward.