Nigeria Seeks WHO’s Assistance for Emergency Deployment against Diphtheria

•NPHCDA: 836 cases recorded with 83 deaths

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The federal government has requested the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the deployment of 18 rapid response teams to support the management of diphtheria disease in Bauchi, Kaduna and Katsina states.

In an update presented yesterday, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), disclosed that no fewer than 836 cases of diphtheria had been confirmed in 33 Local Government Areas (LGAs) across eight states: Cross River, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Lagos, Osun, Yobe, and FCT.

It further disclosed that 83 deaths have been reported from the confirmed cases, making vaccination against this deadly disease critically important, especially for children.

The Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, while disclosing this at a press conference on the diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria, said despite efforts of the federal government to provide safe and cost-effective vaccines, a significant number of children remain unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, compromising the country’s goal of achieving population immunity.

WHO Representative, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, who also spoke at the media briefing said WHO was working with NPHCDA to organise the first phase of a vaccination campaign targeting children from 0 to 14 years old in four states, and that the support cost about N92 million.

The WHO scribe also said the agency had received request from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to procure Diphtheria Antitoxin (DAT) and erythromycin IV for the case management of diphtheria cases.

About 1,800 vials of DAT was expected to arrive in the country on August 2nd, and erythromycin in about a week or two, pending government’s authorisation.

He also said WHO was requested by NCDC to procure DAT and erythromycin IV for the case management of diphtheria cases. 

“These health commodities are essential for saving lives and reducing the sequelae in the affected patients, thus need to be prepositioned in the country and ready to be deployed to the states in need.

“This weekend NCDC requested support from WHO for the deployment of 18 rapid response teams to support Bauchi, Kaduna, and Katsina response.

“The deployment process is underway following the requested profile, and a mix of the workforce from the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (NFELTP), Avoc-SURGE, and WHO staff will be used.

“WHO’s team is on the ground in Yobe and Kano, improving surveillance at health facility and community level, supporting the active case search, and assisting with the decentralised isolation centres and referral to the state reference treatment centres, in alignment with State Ministry of Health request and NCDC guidance,” he said.

According to him, “WHO is supporting the FCT in conducting an integrated Active Case Search and Household Sensitisation in FCT, optimising the opportunity for the fIPV + nOPV2 RI intensification campaign.

“WHO is supporting the procurement of laboratory commodities to increase the result turnaround time to support the case definition and management at an early stage.”

While speaking on the emergency intervention against diphtheria outbreak, Shauib said the NPHCDA is currently collaborating with the affected state teams and other stakeholders to conduct intensified mass vaccinations for identified at-risk populations in the affected states, administering pentavalent and tetanus & diphtheria vaccines.

“Additionally, we are conducting awareness campaigns to educate the public about the disease, its symptoms, and preventive measures.

“The response to the ongoing diphtheria outbreak will be carried out in two phases. Phase 1, the immediate response, will encompass 25 Local Government Areas (LGAs) across four States: Bauchi, Katsina, Yobe, and Kaduna.

“This phase is scheduled to begin on the 7th of August 2023 and will continue until the 11th of August 2023.”

“Phase 2 will cover outbreak response in 171 LGAs. Six States (Kano, Katsina, FCT, Yobe, Kaduna, and Bauchi) will have a state-wide outbreak response, while there will be targeted outbreak responses in LGAs across eight States: Jigawa (8 LGAs), Borno (4 LGAs), Osun (4 LGAs), Lagos (3 LGAs), Zamfara (3 LGAs), Gombe (3 LGAs), Plateau (1 LGA), and Nasarawa (1 LGA).

“This phase is planned to be conducted in three rounds. The first round will commence on 21st August 2023, followed by the second (2nd) and third (3rd) rounds tentatively set for 18th September 2023 and 16th October 2023, respectively. Each of these three rounds will span five days.”

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