Save the Children has launched a wide-scale health response to diphtheria in the three most impacted states of Kano, Yobe and Katsina.
A statement from the organisation said its emergency health unit is deploying expert health and supply chain staff to help over-stretched clinics to detect and treat diphtheria cases, and to support mass vaccination campaigns across the worst hit areas.
The federal ministry of health confirmed last week that more than 7,200 cases and 453 deaths from diphtheria have been recorded in the country.
Save the Children says currently, only 42% of children under 15 in Nigeria are fully protected from diphtheria, and in this most recent outbreak, 80% of the confirmed cases have been found to be people who are unvaccinated.
It warned that a mass vaccination campaign will only be successful if the vaccine shortage is urgently dealt with.
Faton Krasniqi, Save the Children’s Interim Country Director for Nigeria, said: “The entire humanitarian community is alert to the crisis here. We are coordinating closely together and working alongside the Nigerian Ministry of Health to ensure we reach everyone who needs treatment and to contain the spread of the disease.
“Diphtheria can be fatal in more than 10% of cases, but this can increase in places like overcrowded displacement camps or informal settlements in cities, where families have limited access to health services or where health facilities are overwhelmed.”
Krasniqi said the response to the outbreak requires an urgent injection of funding and a large supply of vaccines to ensure that it is contained and the lives of children are saved.
Save the Children called on donors to support the comprehensive response being launched by the government, UN, and aid agencies to support local health services to cope with the influx of diphtheria cases, procure more vaccines and to roll out a mass vaccination campaign.