EU Steps Up to Fight Nigeria’s Diphtheria Outbreak

In a swift response to Nigeria’s escalating diphtheria outbreak, the European Union (EU) has allocated €1 million (N847 million) in humanitarian aid to combat the spread of the disease and provide support to the most affected communities. This substantial funding builds upon the EU’s earlier contribution of €150,000 to the Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in March 2023.

The EU’s latest funding will empower UNICEF and the medical NGO ALIMA to play a crucial role in curbing the outbreak by providing technical expertise and staff support to frontline health agencies. These efforts will focus on enhancing surveillance and case detection, ensuring timely treatment for affected individuals, raising awareness within communities about the disease, and assisting with the procurement of vaccines.

Second largest outbreak in the world

Nigeria’s current diphtheria outbreak ranks as the second largest in the world, with a staggering 10,322 confirmed cases and 16,616 suspected cases recorded since the beginning of the year. The epicenter of the outbreak lies in Kano State, situated in the country’s Northwest, with a devastating toll of 8,447 confirmed cases and 589 deaths. The most severely impacted states include Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Borno, Bauchi, and Kaduna, collectively accounting for a staggering 96% of all suspected cases.

Despite concerted control efforts initiated in late 2022, the disease has regrettably spread to additional states across the Northwest and Northeast regions. Children aged 1 to 14 years represent 72% of all confirmed cases, highlighting the vulnerability of this age group. Worryingly, over 60% of suspected cases have not received the necessary vaccinations, underscoring the importance of immunization programs.

This timely EU funding falls under the bloc’s Epidemics tool, designed to provide rapid financial assistance in the face of disease outbreaks. Diphtheria, a highly contagious bacterial infection transmitted between individuals, causes an infection of the upper respiratory tract, potentially leading to breathing difficulties and suffocation. Children and unvaccinated individuals are particularly susceptible to this potentially fatal illness.

The European Union, together with its Member States, stands as the world’s leading provider of humanitarian aid. This assistance serves as a tangible expression of European solidarity towards those in need across the globe. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the dignity and well-being of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises.

Through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department, the European Union extends a helping hand to millions of victims of conflicts and disasters each year. Operating from its headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the EU delivers humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable individuals solely on the basis of need.

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