Nigeria: Meningitis Outbreak Kills 65 Children in Jigawa State as Residents Lament Poor Govt Response

An official said 65 deaths were recorded in Fourteen Local Government Areas of the state.

At least 65 children in 14 local governments in Jigawa State have died of an ailment suspected to be meningitis, residents and health officials in the area have told PREMIUM TIMES.

On Wednesday when this reporter visited Gumel, Babura and Sule-Tankarkar – some of the local government areas where the outbreak of the disease – residents and health officials explained that some of the children who succumbed to the disease complained of fever and numbness in their legs.

In Dungundun community in Sule-Tankarkar council area, the village head, Alkasim Yakubu, said 19 children had died of the disease and several are dealing with lifelong deformities as a result of the disease.

Embed photo of the head of the community here, Alkasim Yakubu, photo attached via WhatsApp group.

Mr Yakubu due to the outbreak, residents from neighbouring communities are staying away from Dungundun, to avoid catching the highly contagious disease.

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The two octogenarians have died from the disease as well. He said the outbreak was first reported in the community middle of last month.

"Many of the children died within 12 hours of contracting the disease. There is no functional health facility nearby. we rush some of them to Danladin Gumel Primary Health care in the neighbouring council area," he said.

He said the government has largely abandoned the communities since the outbreak.

"Following the outbreak, a local government staff provided the community with a chemical being used in drinking water, since then, there is no any response from government official aside from you (referring to Journalists) who just came, the traditional ruler said.

Most of the dead were recorded at home, he said others have recovered from the disease with deformities, he added.

However, Mr Yakubu said a non-governmental organisation, Save the Children, has been helping to treat the children.

He said the organisation have been sensitising locals about environmental and personal hygiene, they are educating the children about the danger of open defecation and the imperative of hand washing.

Mr Yakubu said those who died in the community from the disease are: Abdulfatahu kanta, 3, Sha'awa kanta, 3, Gambo Alka, 7, Umaru Audu, 2, Shu'aibu Abba, 3, Sama'ila Magaji, 10, Rabilu Abdulaziz, 15, and Muktaka Muhammadu, 20.

Others are Zirkifilu Gambo, 8, Shahida Hassan,12, Shamsi Lawalli, 25, Habiba Yahaya,3, Habu Babandi, 3, Ashafa Maigari, 5, Ummah Miko, 4, Ya'u Jinaidu, 9, Yunusa Haruna, 4, Habi Lawan, 80, and Sabo Awe, 80.

At Mele community in Gumel Council Area, the head of the community, Yusuf Ahmad, said at least 21 members of his community have died from the outbreak.

He said local government health officials have been responding to the outbreak, he said at least 30 others have recovered from the disease.

Also, Akilu Dawaki, a community leader in Bubara Local Government Area, said the disease ravaged many communities. He said the most affected are Kanya Arewa and Kanya Yamma, which are densely populated.

"We have reported the cases to local health officials, they are also doing their best in addressing the problem, they are educating the locals on the symptoms of the Meningitis

"They are about 19 reported deaths including many children and women but many deaths are unreported in the council area," he said.

He said the Gidan Maja community has been particularly hit by the outbreak.

Mr Ahmad said eight children have died since the outbreak. Others community where the outbreak has been reported includes Jigawa, Babura Kofar Yamma, Kwando, Insha Ruwa, Gidan Ibira, and Alfatiha.

Victim narrates experience

Ado Kanta, who lost two of his children to the outbreak, narrated how they died helplessly at home, and in a hospital within a five-day interval.

"It's a pity to see children dying, the experience has long-term devastating effects on any parent. My son, Abdulfatahu, 3, suddenly felt sick, he started vomiting and diarrhoea, he died minutes later at home.

Embed photo of Ado Kanta here, photo attached via WhatsApp group

"His sister, Sha'awa, thee-year-old, also, developed the symptoms of the disease, she was rushed to Danladin Gumel Primary Health Care facility, about ten kilometres, they rejected her and referred us to Gumel, the local council headquarters where she gave up the ghost.

"Children are gifts from God Almighty, he can also take back at the time he wishes, as humans, we will always feel bad when we lost our loved ones, Mr Kanta told reporters.

"As the outbreak continued, without a response from the government, we resort to God Almighty, Surprisingly, a strange cleric came and advise people to gather money and slaughter animals in seeking God's intervention.

Sama'ila Mahmud, the state's epidemiologist, told reporters on Thursday that 257 cases were recorded from 14 Local Government Areas.

Mr Mahmud said ten of the cases were confirmed to be meningitis. He said the government and Save The Children International are responding to the outbreak.

"We have embarked on training for health officials and community volunteers across the council areas to detect and educate the locals on the outbreak," he said.

He said the state government have also embarked on sensitisation programs through Radio Jingles, educating the residents on preventive measures.

Save The Children International, said it is providing support to the Jigawa State government in response to the outbreak in the state.

"Save the Children International is supporting the training of health workers and provision of drugs and medical consumables across 17 health facilities in the state," said Ibrahim Haruna, an advocacy official said.

"To raise awareness, improve preventive and care-seeking practice and strengthen the capacity of community structures on early preparedness and response to mitigate future outbreaks, Save the Children International (SCI) in collaboration with state and LGA stakeholders are engaging with communities across the six most affected LGAs in the state," Mr Haruna said.

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