The European Union (EU) has released €150,000 (N75 million) in humanitarian funds to tackle the spread of diphtheria and assist the most affected communities in the states of Kano, Katsina, Lagos, and Osun.
Press Officer, Delegation of the European Union to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Modestus Chukwulaka in a statement on Monday said the release of the fund is in response to the significant increase in diphtheria cases recorded since the beginning of 2023 in Nigeria.
He noted that this EU funding will enable the Nigerian Red Cross to provide emergency assistance to reduce the impact of diphtheria on affected and at-risk communities through risk communication, outbreak control activities, surveillance, patient referral and hygiene promotion, and early case detection in affected areas.
Mr. Chukwulaka said the humanitarian assistance will, directly and indirectly, target around 1,585,080 people, with a particular focus on vulnerable people at risk of diphtheria, those living in sheltered communities or hard-to-reach locations.
“This funding is part of the EU’s overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
On 20 January 2023, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) officially declared an outbreak of diphtheria in Kano and Lagos states after several suspected cases appeared a month earlier. The disease then spread rapidly to other states. From 136 cases in the first week of 2023, the country now records a total of 733 suspected cases, and deplores 89 fatalities,” the statement revealed.
The Press Officer, described the outbreak of diphtheria as one of the most serious occurrences in Nigeria in recent years, adding that children, aged between 5 and 18 years are the most vulnerable group.
Diphtheria, he said, is a highly contagious bacterial infection transmitted between humans.
He said: “It causes an infection of the upper respiratory tract, which can lead to breathing difficulties and suffocation. Those most at risk are children and people who have not been fully vaccinated against the disease”.