1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. West Africa
  4. Burkina Faso

Meningitis wanes in Nigeria

ECHO/MSF meningitis vaccination campaign, Gombe
(Claire Barrault/ECHO)

The meningitis epidemic – the worst to hit West and Central Africa in five years according to the UN – is waning in hard-hit Nigeria, but Médecins Sans Frontières staff say the deadly disease is still spreading in parts of southern Niger.

Agencies estimate at least six million people in Nigeria and over two million in Niger between the ages of two and 30 – the highest-risk group for infection – require vaccinations.

In Nigeria meningitis had stricken 39,841 people and killed 1,886 as of 12 April. 

To date meningitis has affected 8,292 people in Niger with 327 deaths; 871 in Chad with 102 deaths; and 2,892 in Burkina Faso with 389 deaths.

For a one-week period as of 12 April, new reported cases in Nigeria dropped to 3,830 from 6,678 two weeks prior – the period Nigeria health officials are now calling the epidemic’s peak.

The International Coordinating Group, a World Health Organization (WHO)-led interagency body that coordinates meningitis vaccines, has made 9.7 million vaccines available to health authorities and aid agencies across the region. So far MSF staff have vaccinated 2.7 million people in Nigeria and Niger.

 More on meningitis
 CHAD: W 135 meningitis shows up after nearly a decade
 BURKINA FASO: Meningitis – fewer cases, but more deadly
 NIGER-NIGERIA: Meningitis spread prompts donor emergency response
 AFRICA: New meningitis vaccine nears debut

MSF Switzerland’s spokesperson, Claude Madhoudeau, said given that many West African countries lie in the meningitis belt, “Everybody was expecting a meningitis outbreak.” But he said the magnitude of the outbreak forced a broader response.

The “meningitis belt” spans sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia.

Ramón Arrieta, head of the MSF emergency intervention in Niger’s Dosso region, said in a recent communiqué: “The initial [response] plan was very different from what we are facing right now. But the epidemic has spread to other zones so we have had to adapt our activities to the changing situation and vaccinate in new areas.”

Between 1995 and 1997, the last period West Africa saw a major meningitis epidemic, at least 25,000 people died and 250,000 were infected. From December 2006 to May 2007, 53,000 cases of meningitis were reported and an estimated 4,000 people died across the region.



People aged between two and 30 are most at risk of contracting meningitis. Children in Gombe state await vaccination.
Claire Barrault/ECHO
ECHO/MSF meningitis vaccination campaign, Gombe
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Meningitis wanes in Nigeria
ECHO/MSF meningitis vaccination campaign, Gombe

Photo: Claire Barrault/ECHO 
People aged between two and 30 are most at risk of contracting meningitis. Children in Gombe state await vaccination.

In Nigeria the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) is supporting MSF to work alongside government health authorities to respond to the outbreak. WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are also intervening.

“The response is going very smoothly and the caseload continues to drop,” said an unnamed official from the Nigeria Health Ministry. The information was confirmed by ECHO spokesperson Claire Barrault speaking to IRIN from Gombe state in Nigeria where she was reporting on the campaign.

Nigeria Health Ministry statistics indicate more efficient reporting on outbreaks and treatment as compared to past epidemics in Nigeria, though instances of under-reporting, late reporting and lack of accurate laboratory data prevail. Thirteen percent of 342 health districts in Nigeria reported their caseload and case death rates late this year, according to government and WHO statistics.

MSF is also collaborating with the health ministries of Niger and Chad.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

Hundreds of thousands of readers trust The New Humanitarian each month for quality journalism that contributes to more effective, accountable, and inclusive ways to improve the lives of people affected by crises.

Our award-winning stories inform policymakers and humanitarians, demand accountability and transparency from those meant to help people in need, and provide a platform for conversation and discussion with and among affected and marginalised people.

We’re able to continue doing this thanks to the support of our donors and readers like you who believe in the power of independent journalism. These contributions help keep our journalism free and accessible to all.

Show your support as we build the future of news media by becoming a member of The New Humanitarian. 

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.