Amid the most severe diphtheria outbreak in recent global history, UNICEF Nigeria is sounding the alarm about the urgent need for widespread vaccination.
A statement issued by the communication assistant of UNICEF, Nchekwube Nwosu-Igbo, which quoted Dr. Rownak Khan, its representative, said the outbreak had so far resulted in over 11,500 suspected cases, over 7,000 confirmed cases and 453 deaths, mostly children.
He said, “Most cases are children aged between four and 15 years who have not received even a single dose of the vital vaccine, laying bare the urgency of the vaccination situation in Nigeria.
“UNICEF is providing urgent support to the Nigerian government in its efforts to combat the outbreak. A crucial part of this support includes the procurement of vaccines to support the government’s response. So far, on behalf of the government, UNICEF has deployed 9.3 million doses of diphtheria vaccines to affected states including Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna and Jigawa. Of these, 4 million doses have been dispatched to Kano, the epicentre of the outbreak. Another 4 million doses of vaccines are being procured and will be handed over to the government in the coming weeks.
“The devastating impact of this diphtheria outbreak is a grim reminder of the importance of vaccination. Nigeria is home to a staggering 2.2 million children who haven’t received even a single dose of vaccine – the second largest such cohort in the world. We must collectively take urgent actions to drastically reduce this number. Every child deserves protection from preventable diseases. This is not negotiable”, Khan said.
UNICEF called on partners, stakeholders, and the international community to rally together to ensure that every child in Nigeria is reached with life-saving vaccines. The children’s agency emphasizes the importance of strengthening routine immunisation, community engagement, and health systems to avoid similar outbreaks in the future.