Meningitis Claims Lives of Over 2,500 Since January
Reuters on Saturday reported the release of a statement by UNICEF that meningitis has claimed the lives of more than 2,500 people living in western and central Africa since the beginning of the year, which could become the worst epidemic in five years.
UNICEF said: "The agency is warning that lives in other countries in the meningitis belt could be at risk if more vaccines are not made available to contain the disease."
In Africa, the dry, hot months between January and May tend to carry the highest risks for meningitis infections. The regions stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia called the meningitis belt are particularly vulnerable to infection.
According to UNICEF, between January 1 and April 5, 47,310 cases of meningitis resulting in 2,519 deaths were reported in Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, with Nigeria suffering the highest number of deaths at 1,701 and Burkina Faso at 389.
According to UNICEF, while global vaccine stocks have been tapped to help combat meningitis in the region, Nigeria remains 2.5 million doses short and Niger another 300,000 doses short, according to Reuters.
The health minister of Chad last week said that the country was facing a meningitis epidemic and the government would respond with a vaccine program. In Niger, health officials are administering vaccines provided by the World Health Organization to people between the age of two and 30.