Niger: MSF teams support vaccination campaign against meningitis C outbreak
Between 1 January and 7 May, there were 179 deaths from meningitis out of a total of 3,037 recorded cases. The majority of cases occurred in the west of the country. Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial disease that causes serious infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. In response to the outbreak, which was declared by the Ministry of Public Health at the end of March, MSF supported the health authorities with a vaccination campaign, targeting the regions of Niamey, Tillabéry, Dosso and Tahoua.
Niger is part of the ‘meningitis belt’ – a region that stretches across sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia. Niger, like 25 other countries in the region, is regularly affected by this disease. Cases of meningitis C have been on the rise for several years, first in Nigeria in 2013 and 2014, and in Niger since 2015. So far, the number of meningitis cases recorded across Niger has almost doubled compared to 2016 during the same period. Sixty-five per cent have been verified cases of meningitis C, the main strain of this epidemic, and 18 per cent verified as strain X.
MSF is continuing to monitor the areas at risk and provide support in managing cases. Emergency teams are also ready should the Ministry of Public Health need support for a new vaccination campaign.
MSF has been present in Niger since 1985 and currently works in the regions of Maradi, Tahoua, Zinder and Diffa, providing paediatric and neonatology care, treatment for malnourished children under five years of age, immunisations, reproductive healthcare and support in the fight against malaria. In 2015 and 2016, MSF teams supported the Nigerien Ministry of Health’s response to the meningitis epidemic in the regions of Niamey, Zinder, Tahoua, Tillabéry and Dosso. During the 2016 epidemic, there were 1,538 cases of meningitis and 114 deaths reported between January and June.