Diphtheria claims lives of 122 Nigerian children, says UNICEF 

Diphtheria has claimed the lives of 122 children in Nigeria as at July 2023, UNICEF’s Communications Officer in Nigeria, Ms Safiya Akau, stated on Thursday, reports the News Agency of Nigeria.


She stated that UNICEF was amplifying its efforts to counter the growing outbreak of diphtheria that has affected children in 27 states of Nigeria.


Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae that make toxin. 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.


Akau stated that 3,850 suspected cases of diphtheria were reported as of July and that 1,387 of the cases were confirmed.


She listed states affected as Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Lagos, Sokoto, Zamfara and the FCT which accounted for 98 per cent of the suspected cases.


She noted that 71.5 per cent of confirmed cases were found in children between the ages of two years and 14 years.


“It is heart-breaking 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.


“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 to protect them from preventable diseases like diphtheria.


“The agency will continue to intensify efforts to address the on-going outbreak and work alongside government to achieve a healthier, safer future for every Nigerian child,” she said.


Akau stated also that UNICEF was 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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