Since the discovery of the first case of measles in early December 2020, more than 1,158 children have so far been diagnosed with the disease in communities around Maiduguri, Borno state capital, health officials said.
Officials at the Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) also known as Doctors Without Borders, said the number is alarming and an urgent vaccination campaign is needed to save children.
The Humanitarian Times learnt from experts that measles, a viral disease, is a serious ailment that can seriously affect the lives of children under the ages of five and even adults older than 20 are also likely to suffer from complications relating to the measles infection. The common complication that measles can cause on children is ear infection and diarrhoea, pneumonia and encephalitis – which can lead to death if not treated on time.
MSF said it is caring for a high number of patients suffering from measles in and around Maiduguri.
“The first child affected by measles was admitted in Gwange Paediatric hospital on 3rd December 2020 and the number of patients has been increasing since then in Maiduguri hospitals”, says David Thérond, MSF Head of Mission.
Mr Thérond worried that “a vaccination campaign is required to see the number of cases decrease.”
MSF said it. Has so received a total of 1158 children with measles in Gwange paediatric hospital in Maiduguri from 1st January to 03rd April 2021.
Of those numbers, 58% have come from Zabarmari, a small town located about 20 km from Maiduguri.
MSF had to strengthen “the hospitalization capacity” in both Gwange and Fori health facilities. The doctors without borders did that by increasing the number of beds from 65 to 105 in Gwange.
To further strengthen the response capacity, MSF launched activities in partnership with the health authorities in Zabarmari, being one of the most affected areas.
Zabarmari, an agrarian location of Maiduguri with an estimated population of over 45,000 people including displaced families in host community, was where insurgents beheaded 76 farmers in November last year.
But due to lack of safety to access Zabarmari MSF has to “set up a local team of ten community health workers and a nurse.”
The team in Zabarmari is supervised by a mobile team coming from Maiduguri to support the local primary health care and refer severe cases to the Gwange paediatric hospital in Maiduguri.
Kubura Mohammed, a mother of seven children, lives in Zabarmari.
She was seen in the pediatric hospital with her four-year-old daughter, Kaltume Hafisu, who has been diagnosed with measles.
‘My daughter has been ill for six days before I brought her to the hospital. The medical team were all around my daughter throughout our first night because her condition was critical. Her treatment commenced from the moment she was admitted and this includes blood transfusion and the administration of intravenous fluids.
‘The care we are receiving here is completely free. We appreciate what MSF is doing in our community and I must add that about two weeks ago, one of my daughters was also treated for measles in this hospital. All my seven children have had measles at different times’.
Records show that Borno state has had incidents of measles epidemic every two years over the past decade.
During the measles outbreak in 2019, eight local government areas of Borno state were affected and MSF provided care to 4,000 children in Gwange and Bama hospitals. Several factors contribute to the epidemic. This includes the fact that the routine vaccination is not carried out in many locations because over 60% of health centres, according to health authorities, are closed or unable to function properly because of the conflict, and the fact that NGOs providing health care in remote areas have been forced to leave due to security reasons.
For those communities living outside Maiduguri in areas with limited access to health care, access to healthcare and vaccination is critical.
“We are engaged in discussions with the authorities and get prepared to support the health authorities for a catch-up vaccination campaign in Maiduguri and Zabarmari as soon as vaccines are available because measles is extremely contagious and especially dangerous for young children.”, notes David Thérond.
The Humanitarian Times asked when will the urgently needed vaccination commence to save the children from further infection.
Officials said “the vaccination plan is still under discussion at state and federal levels with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation.”