Meningitis Outbreak and Persistent deaths among children in Jigawa State has led to outcry by parents who said those that survived are now suffering from permanent disabilities. MUH’D ZANGINA KURA (Dutse) reports.

It is alarming that children in Jigawa State have persistently remained vulnerable to premature death. This ugly trend have been in existence for decades and yet the hope for mitigating it remains very minimal as more children are buried for what many see as highly avoidable.

Virtually all the deaths recorded from the recent Cerebral Spinal Meningitis outbreak in the state, the victims were children between 1 to 10 years old leaving watchers of development in the state to lament the state of healthcare in Jigawa.

According to official records, the number of the children who died as a result of the recent meningitis outbreak were 14 while unofficial record put the number at 40 as the case cut across over 14 local government areas of the state.

The meningitis outbreak strike the state at a time when it was yet to recover from the death of over 50 children killed by suspected malaria disease in a single community of Gidan Dugus village within one month in Dutse local government area.

The November 2017 incident of Gidan Dugus community is one of the numerous cases of child mortality in the state.

The malaria outbreak was brought under control within one week of government intervention and since then no single death has been recorded of malaria in the area, this has prompted popular opinion by experts that with proper and effective health care service delivery in the state, the whole cases of child mortality could be averted.

Meanwhile, Taura local government area is one of the worst hit places by the recent meningitis outbreak and the unfortunate incident will remain indelible in the minds of parents who lost their love ones and those left with permanent disabilities.

Some of the parents who lost their children spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday in condition of deep sorrow and mourning, they expressed their displeasure on how government failed to take quick action to address the situation.

According to Ali Sunusi, who lost his three years old daughter, Khadija Ali said, his daughter complained of ill health which they suspected was fever and was taken to a nearby patent medicine store for treatment. But when the situation aggravated according to Sanusi, she was taken to a local clinic and was eventually referred to Taura General Hospital where all effort to rescue her life failed.

“After she died the doctors confirmed to us the case was meningitis”, he said sadly.

Mallam Ya’u Salisu, a father of 3-year-old Ummu Kulsum said his daughter fell sick with severe fever and headache. In the morning hours of the next day, she was taken to nearby medicine store for treatment of what they presumed as normal malaria, but in the midnight the condition became worst and she died before morning.

Mallam Usman Bello of Majiya town narrated how his 10 years old child Ya’u Usman survived the epidemic after he was admitted at the Taura general hospital but left the sick bed with permanent hearing disability.

“Yes my child survive the meningitis epidemic but he lost his hearing ability, he is now suffering from hearing impairment, how could he continue with his education,” Malam Ya’u asked in lamentation and tears.

However, other parents interviewed by LEADERSHIP Sunday in Majiya town narrated that, they first took their children to medicine store for treatment in a similar manner, on what they generally thought was ordinary malaria but later the case became different and many died before appropriate action could be taken by healthcare experts.

In a statement, the Jigawa State government confirmed the cases of Cerebral Spinal Meningitis in the state, putting the number of deaths at 14 as of March.

The state commissioner for Health, Dr Abba Zakar, denounced the unofficial report which put the number of death recorded at 40, describing the figure released by government as authentic.

Dr Abba explained that, the suspected cases of meningitis started appearing in the state since November last year and 54 cases were reported out of which 11 were confirmed to be CSM type B, and type C.

“From the suspected cases, 14 deaths were reported from across the 14 local government areas hits by the epidemic.

“The state government has already provided adequate drugs for the treatment of any suspected and confirmed case to all health facilities in the affected area.

“We also forwarded our request for vaccine to Federal Primary Healthcare Agency and any moment from now we are expecting the delivery of the commodities.

“The vaccination exercise will cover children from 2 to 15 years old who constituted over 50 per cent of the state population, that means over 2.5 million will be vaccinated against meningitis across all the 27 local government areas of the state,” the commissioner said.

He further added that the situation is currently under control as more disease surveillance mechanism and medical workers have been put under alert pertaining the CSM in all parts of the state.

The commissioner also revealed that, the state governor has approved the release of N98 million for the purchase of equipment and drugs to furnish the newly constructed 31 primary healthcare facilities across the state with the aim at providing more people access to healthcare services.

In a related development, Maternal and New Born Child Health Programme (MNCH), a DFID funded project has procured and supplied drugs and other consumable items to Jigawa State worth N310 million for onward distribution to 162 health facilities under the programme.

Over 80 per cent of the procured items have already been delivered to three different stores in Hadejia, Gumel and Birnin Kudu of the state, while the remaining 20 per cent will be delivered as soon as the state government complete the renovation of Dutse store.

According to report from MNCH office, after receiving the remaining drugs, the items will be handed over to the state government for the official flagging up the distribution.

The MNCH programme is centred at supporting and promoting health care service delivery particularly to children and women to mitigate the menace of high rate of maternal and child death.

It is pertinent to note that, Jigawa State is one of the states of federation with high rate of child and maternal deaths according to the National Health Survey report.

The Gidan Dugus malaria incidents that killed 50 children within few weeks and the recent meningitis epidemic according to some experts, is a clear manifestation on how Jigawa children are so vulnerable to avoidable death.

Health experts have also indicated that the major causes of the high rate of deaths in Jigawa State are poor reproductive health; malaria; malnutrition; ignorance of proper infant and young child feeding; non attendance and access to antenatal and postnatal services; poor coverage of immunisation for five child killer diseases and unprofessional attitude of some health workers.

Others identified are lack of enough manpower, facilities, equipment and adequate funding for effective and accessible health care service delivery.

They advised that all efforts must be made to address these challenges that causes the death of innocent children in the state.

They also frowned at the ‘Fire Brigade’ approach to health matters across the country. While urging for the establishment of constant and effective policies, political commitment, public enlightenment and involvement, disease surveillances and joining hand with the private sector organisations in the provision of accessible and effective healthcare service delivery to all people of the state.

Saving the live of children and any other persons is not only a political responsibility but also human and moral responsibility of any leader and individual in the society.

Therefore federal government, Jigawa state all stake holders and the entire people of the state must join hands to end this ugly trend.