By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—THE Federal Government declared, yesterday, that a total of $1.1 billion was needed to tackle the outbreak of Cerebrospinal Meningitis in five states of the north.
The disclosure came as the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, said the Senate under his leadership, was prepared to accord government all necessary support towards tackling the disease headlong.
The amount, according to Dr Emmanuel Odu, Acting Director-General,National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, is needed to vaccinate an estimated 22 million people in the affected states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Niger, which has resulted in the death of 328 people so far.
Odu spoke in Abuja, yesterday, while briefing Senate Committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases on measures being put in place by the Federal Government to tackle outbreak of the disease which has recorded 2,524 cases across 16 states of the country.
He said: “To vaccinate a total population of 22 million in the five affected states will cost $1.1billion; the cost of vaccines alone. And if we are to procure for all the 16 states in the meningitis belt, we can roughly multiply it by the $1.1billion.”
According to him, of the doses being sourced with the $1.1billion from an Indian firm, 500,000 doses were delivered last week and 823,000 are being expected any time from now.
National Coordinator of National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the vaccination would start tomorrow in Zamfara State, being the most affected area, followed by Sokoto.
However, Chairman of the committee, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, and other members frowned at the fire brigade approach always adopted by the agency to fight the yearly scourge by charging them to be more proactive in subsequent years.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in a series of tweets, yesterday, on his twitter handle @BukolaSaraki, stated that he had spoken with the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, to assure him of the Senate’s commitment to help end the epidemic.
He said: “I applaud FG, Ministry of Health, stakeholders and WHO’s efforts to fight meningitis in Nigeria. We need all hands on deck.
“I spoke to Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, on the meningitis outbreak to assure him of Senate’s support.”
“With a 15% mortality rate, the Senate stands ready to respond quickly to any request for emergency assistance for meningitis.”