Prof. Ali Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, on Thursday constituted an emergency taskforce to curb the diphtheria outbreak in the country.
The Minister made this known in a press statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media and External Relations, Tashikalmah Hallah. Noting that the taskforce is to be co-chaired by the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib and the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa.
Açcording to the report, other members of the taskforce include the Director of Public Health, Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Anyaike Chukwuma, representatives from the World Health Organisation, United Nations Children’s Fund, Federal Ministry of Information and the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee on Primary Healthcare Delivery.
Diphtheria is a highly contagious vaccine-preventable disease caused mainly by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae which can be fatal in five to 10 per cent of cases, with a higher mortality rate in young children.
WHO’s most recent risk assessment of diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria has maintained the risk as high at the national level, and low at the regional and global levels.
The minister said the taskforce is to operate in an emergency mode in order to forestall further spread to other states and bring succour to the populace.
The minister was quoted as saying, “There should be massive mobilisation and sensitisation. This is where the NTLC is critical. Our people should be aware of the disease, the dangers inherent in and what they need to do. We must mount a rapid response as our children are returning to school.
“I am also glad that the ED of NPHCDA has shelved his trip to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, to lead the rapid response team to Kano – the epicentre of the crisis.”
The statement noted that diphtheria cases have been detected in 14 states, with Kano as the epicentre.
The 14 affected states are Lagos, Osun, Federal Captial Territory, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Zamfara, Jigawa, Plateau, and Kano.
Pate also urged the taskforce team to liaise with the Governors of the 14 affected states for counterpart funding, ownership and mass mobilisation.
The statement noted that UNICEF has procured 1.2 million vials of tetanus-diphtheria vaccine as support to the Federal Government’s response to the outbreak.
UNICEF representative, Dr. Rownak Khan said, “I want to affirm UNICEF’s unwavering commitment to supporting the government’s comprehensive response to the diphtheria outbreak.
“I’m pleased to announce that UNICEF, on behalf of the government, has procured 1.2 million vials of the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine which has arrived in Nigeria. These will be immediately dispatched to Kano, which is at the heart of this outbreak. Our collective aim is to safeguard the health and future of every child in Nigeria.”