The Chief of the UNICEF Field Office in Kano, Mr Rahma Mohammed Farah, stated this while addressing newsmen during a one-day workshop tagged “Media orientation on diphtheria outbreak” organised by UNICEF in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Information in Kano, with participants drawn from various media organisation from Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto and Katsina states.
He further said about 60.8 per cent of total suspected cases of diphtheria disease are from unimmunised children.
He however said to battle the disease, UNICEF had last week delivered 1.2 million vaccines to the Kano State Government, in its continued support to the government for response to the diphtheria outbreaks.
Farah, who emphasised the importance of routine immunisation as well as the dangers related to the issue of zero doses, said the majority of suspected victims of diphtheria are children who did not receive a single dose of vaccination against the children's killer diseases including diphtheria.
“So far, the highest number of cases of diphtheria are reported from Kano State. For example, out of the 44 LGAs of Kano State, the diphtheria disease has spread to 39 LGAs.
“Since January 2023, Kano state reported over 5,800 cumulative cases of diphtheria in the state. Although there was a decline in the reported case in June, however, as of July, these diphtheria cases had been on the rise. As of last week, over 400 suspected cases with 11 deaths had been reported in Kano State”, he said.
He further disclosed that local governments in the state were mostly affected including Ungogo with 2651 cases, Dala (989), Fagge (943), Gwale (714), Kumbotso (713), Nassarawa (538), Kano Municipal (506) and Tarauni (269).
He said UNICEF had done three rounds of vaccinations and were done in the state between February and August this year.
“So far three rounds have been conducted, with 23, 200 children vaccinated in round one, 277,796 children in round two and 29,500 children were vaccinated in round three.”
In his remarks, the Director General of Kano State Primary Healthcare Management Board, Dr. Muhammad Mahmud, said about 520 children are suspected to have lost their lives following the diphtheria outbreak in the state this year.
“This year, Kano reported about 8,700 suspected cases of diphtheria and 6,300 confirmed, with about 520 children suspected to have died of this illness.
“We tracked this on a daily and weekly basis, we believe the cases are much more than what we are getting, as we witness the increase of the cases from July”, he said.
The DG added that the cases were reported from 39 local governments out of the 44 local governments in the state, while the cases worsened within the eight metropolitan local governments.
Mahmud who described diphtheria as a threat to child survival, health and the well-being of children, said UNICEF is collaborating with the government and other partners to respond to the emergency to save the lives of the children affected.
Speaking earlier, the Chief Communication, Advocacy and Partnership, at UNICEF Nigeria, Rajat Madhok, appealed to media organisations to create more awareness to the general public on the dangers of the disease.
He assured that UNICEF is ready to give all necessary support to both governments and media in tackling the disease to curtail its spread.
Participants were also trained on some of the symptoms of the disease which include fever, weakness of the body, swollen glands, and sore throat among others.