Nigeria records worst cholera outbreak in 2021 as malaria deaths hit over 600,000 in Africa – WHO


Our Correspondent


Daily Courier – Nigeria recorded more than 100,000 suspected cases of cholera in 2021, its highest in recent times, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared in Abuja on Monday.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had said earlier in the year that Nigeria recorded 111,062 cases of cholera in 2021 with 3,604 deaths, figures exceeding the number of cases and deaths recorded in 2020.

WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Mulombo, corroborated the figure at a training session on oral cholera vaccine request and campaign planning, organised by the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC).

Mulombo acknowledged the role of the GTFCC and its Country Support Platform (CSP) in the global roadmap for cholera control, especially in endemic countries.

He said the agency had proved to be effective in the development of National Control Plans, which included vaccination and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) activities.

“We are mindful of the support by different partners and donors through the WHO, for the response. This include reactive vaccination with more than 1.7 million persons vaccinated with two doses each of Oral Cholera Vaccination (OCV) in Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe, and Zamfara states.

We believe that the recently approved GTFCC application for Nigeria will significantly mitigate the risk of and upsurge of cholera cases during this rainy season. The application covers approximately nine million doses of OCV to implement two campaigns in 14 local government areas in nine states and the FCT”, Mulombo said.

He stressed the need for speedy shipment and allocation of the vaccines to ensure early vaccination.

The WHO representative said Nigeria had demonstrated the capacity to implement vaccinations in difficult settings like insecurity, as experienced in two local government areas in Zamfara.

He noted that the country had also addressed and improved vaccination data quality through the use of real-time reporting by campaign teams using handheld mobile phones.

“We believe that the vast experience built in Nigeria over the years in implementing mass vaccination campaigns will come to bear as we prepare for the next preventive campaigns”, he said.

Mulombo challenged Nigeria to seize all opportunities for vaccination in specifically target areas with zero doses and ensure that often-missed children were offered OCV and all routine vaccinations.

This, he said, was necessary so that the country would meet the global target of ending cholera by 2030

There is the need to improve coordination of cholera control efforts and ensure that clean and safe water as well as improved hygienic practices are implemented sustainably to achieve the desired goal, he added.

In a related development, the WHO, said no fewer than 602,000 people died of malaria across Africa in 2021.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, said this on Monday in her message to commemorate this year’s World Malaria Day tagged ‘Harness Innovation to Reduce the Malaria Disease Burden and Save Lives’.

“Malaria remains a significant public health and development challenge. In the last year, about 95 percent of the estimated 228 million cases occurred in the WHO/AFRO Region, along with 602,020 reported deaths.

“Six of our countries, the worst-impacted by malaria in the region, are reported to have accounted for up to 55 percent of cases globally, and for 50 percent of these deaths”, she declared.

The commemoration of World Malaria Day is marked annually on April 25 to focus global attention on the disease and its devastating impact on families, communities, and societal development, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Moeti, in her remarks, believes this year’s theme aligns with her call to urgently scale up innovation and the deployment of new tools in the fight against malaria, while advocating for equitable access to malaria prevention and treatment within the context of building health system resilience.

She said the past year has seen significant breakthroughs in malaria prevention and control, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WHO official stated that landmark recommendations on the use of the first vaccine against malaria – RTS,S – were released by the late last year, adding that the vaccine would be used to prevent the disease among children aged six months to five years, who live in moderate to high transmission settings.

“While this is a ground-breaking advance in the development of new tools to fight this disease, with the potential to save millions of lives, supplies are currently limited.

“As such, it is important to ensure that the doses that are available are utilised for maximum impact while ensuring the continued availability of other preventive measures to those most at risk.

“Despite some slowing of progress to reduce malaria cases and deaths, and the disruptions to health services caused by COVID-19, we are still much further ahead than we were in 2000. We need to reignite that momentum and build on the recent advances.

“The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of people catching and dying from malaria. This requires a focus on research and on leveraging available evidence to ensure that our targeted interventions are an efficient use of resources, which produce measurable results”, she said.