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BREAKING: Diphtheria outbreak claims 122 lives in Nigeria, says UNICEF

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KANO — The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, yesterday, said no fewer than 122 persons have lost their lives to diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria.

UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Ms Cristian Munduate, in a statement by the UNICEF’s Communications (Advocacy, Media and External Relations), Safiya Akau, expressed worry over the outbreak, which she said has affected children in 27 states of the country, putting the case fatality rate (CFR) at 8.7 per cent.

Munduate said as at July, this year, 3,850 suspected cases were reported with 1,387 confirmed as diphtheria.

She said: “As of July 2023, 3,850 suspected cases were reported with 1,387 confirmed as diphtheria. The disease has tragically claimed 122 lives, with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 8.7 percent.

“The outbreak has affected mainly Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Lagos, FCT, Sokoto, and Zamfara states, which account for 98 per cent of the suspected cases. Most confirmed cases, approximately 71.5 per cent, have occurred among children aged two to 14 years.

“It’s heartbreaking to note that only 22 per cent of the confirmed cases received their routine childhood immunization vaccinations.

“Most of these affected children, especially those who unfortunately passed away, had not received a single dose of the vaccine. The need to reach the unreached has never been more critical.

“UNICEF Nigeria is amplifying its efforts to counter a growing outbreak of diphtheria that has affected children in 27 states.

“In response to the outbreak, UNICEF is closely collaborating with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, the affected states and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, providing technical support to plan and operationalize the response.

“UNICEF’s commitment extends to several key interventions, including: Transporting vaccines and related equipment to the affected states and strengthening routine immunization, Training health workers and volunteers for service delivery, risk communication, and community engagement as well as supervising outbreak response activities

“Procuring and supplying face masks, hand sanitizers, and antibiotics to treat diphtheria as well as supplying Laboratory consumables and biosafety cabinets for testing of suspected cases at the NCDC.”

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