From Our Correspondent
No fewer than 122 Nigerian children have died of diphtheria as of July 2023, UNICEF’s Communications Officer in Nigeria, Ms Safiya Akau, said in Dutse, Jigawa State, on Thursday.
Akau said UNICEF was amplifying its efforts to counter the growing outbreak of the disease that has affected children in 27 states of Nigeria.
TheNewsZenith reports that diphtheria is a serious infection arising from strains of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae that make toxins.
It can lead to difficulty in breathing, heart rhythm problems, and death.
It usually affects the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. Diphtheria is extremely rare.
The UNICEF chief said medics recorded 3,850 suspected cases of diphtheria as of July while they confirmed 1,387 cases.
States affected, according to her, are Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Lagos, Sokoto, Zamfara and the FCT.
These states accounted for 98 per cent of the suspected cases.
Akau noted that children between the ages of two years and 14 years accounted for 71.5 per cent of confirmed cases.
“It is heartbreaking to note that only 22 per cent of the confirmed cases received their routine childhood immunisation vaccinations,’’ Akau quoted Ms Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria as saying.
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“Most of the affected children, especially those who unfortunately passed on, had not received a single dose of the vaccine.
“The need to reach the unreached has never been more critical.
“Many children did not receive their vaccines during the COVID-19 lockdown. We now urgently need to catch up.
“These `zero-dose’ children (those who have not received a single dose of vaccine) are a primary concern.
“In light of these statistics, UNICEF Nigeria urges all parents and guardians to ensure their children receive routine immunisations. This is to protect them from preventable diseases like diphtheria,” she said.
According to Akau, the agency will continue to intensify efforts to address the ongoing outbreak. It will also work alongside the government to achieve a healthier, safer future for every Nigerian child.
UNICEF, she said, is collaborating with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the affected states and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency to plan and operationalise response.
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