Abuja, Nigeria – 21 November 2023
In a swift response to the escalating diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria, the European Union (EU) has released €1 million (approximately N847 million) in humanitarian funding to combat the spread of the disease and provide support to affected communities. This additional funding builds upon the €150,000 allocated by the EU to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) in March 2023 to aid in controlling the epidemic.
The EU funding will enable UNICEF and ALIMA, a medical NGO, to actively participate in the response efforts. Their contributions will include providing technical and staff support to frontline health agencies, enhancing surveillance and case detection, ensuring adequate treatment of cases, raising community awareness, and assisting with vaccine procurement.
Nigeria is currently grappling with the world’s second-largest diphtheria outbreak, with 10,322 confirmed cases and 16,616 suspected cases recorded since the beginning of the year. Kano State in the Northwest region stands as the epicenter of the outbreak, with 8,447 confirmed cases and a staggering 589 deaths. Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Borno, Bauchi, and Kaduna are the most severely impacted states, accounting for 96% of all suspected cases.
Despite control measures implemented since the outbreak’s inception in late 2022, the disease has gradually spread to other states in the Northwest and Northeast regions. Children aged 1 to 14 years constitute 72% of all confirmed cases. An analysis of vaccination records reveals that over 60% of suspected cases have not been vaccinated against diphtheria.
The EU’s Epidemics tool, designed to provide rapid funding in response to disease outbreaks, serves as a crucial mechanism for addressing such crises. This tool’s effectiveness stems from its ability to facilitate prompt and effective interventions, mitigating the impact of outbreaks.
The EU’s timely response to the diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria highlights its commitment to alleviating the suffering of affected communities and preventing the further spread of the disease. The involvement of UNICEF and ALIMA, coupled with the EU’s financial assistance, demonstrates a concerted effort to effectively address this public health emergency.