A NEWS report from the Medecins Sans Frontiers also known as Doctors Without Borders has narrated how children in Borno State are still dying from measles.
The report raised concern on the spike of measles in the state in 2019. It attributed the condition to a lack of vaccination coverage among the most vulnerable people in northern Nigeria, coupled with a lack of capacity among health actors to respond to the measles outbreak.
A previous report by the UNICEF noted that nearly four million Nigerian children missed vaccination for measles in 2017.
The Doctors Without Borders said lack of the routine vaccine has left thousands of children at risk of getting infected with measles.
“In the four months from January to April alone, MSF teams treated 2,343 children with measles. And the number of cases in April was four times higher than in January. There are so many patients that all 73 isolation beds at Gwange Hospital, in the west of Maiduguri, are full,” the report read in part.
Since January, the medical team has recorded 58 deaths from measles in both the State Specialist Hospital and the Gwange Hospital of Borno State.
“But this is only part of the total death toll,” the report stated.
“MSF teams have treated 2,922 children for measles in Borno since November 2018 as part of the organization’s response to a spike in cases of the potentially deadly disease.”
Caroline Masunda, MSF medical team leader in Maiduguri said in the report that lots of children die from measles due to complications such as acute malnutrition, malaria, and pneumonia.
“It is unacceptable that there are still high numbers of children passing away from such a treatable disease,” she said. “It has brought a lot of loss and a lot of sadness to the community.”
A mother of a three-year-old girl explained how her baby nearly died from the disease.
“She started sneezing and had a high fever, the mother said in the report. “The inside of her lips turned red and she was constantly vomiting. I was so worried and I thought she was going to die. Though after nearly a month of treatment, the girl recovered from the disease.
“Most children we see are admitted for days, if not weeks,” said Muhammad Abdullahi, a doctor at the Maiduguri’s specialist hospital.
“Since I started practising as a doctor in 2016, I have not seen such high numbers of measles cases in Maiduguri,” he said.
The medical team noted that most children suffering from Measles in Borno come from internally displaced populations and the communities that host them.
The Boko Haram insurgencies have caused large numbers of displacements in northeastern Nigeria since 2014. The conflicts have left nearly two million people dependent on humanitarian assistance for their survival.
According to the latest Global Report on Internally Displacement, more than 1.1 million Nigerians were newly displaced in 2018. The number increased the stock of the displaced in the country to over 2.2 million as of December 2018.
In the situation report on measles released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on 18 May, Nigeria has recorded 28796 cases of measles as of May 12. Borno State has the highest number of the disease with a total of 13,742 cases, followed by Katsina with 4,062 recorded cases of measles.
To limit the number of complicated cases that increase the mortality rate, MSF asked for free access to primary health care in Maiduguri for the citizens.
The team also “urgently calling for better, faster coordination between all actors, including Nigerian authorities, UN agencies, and nongovernmental organizations, to provide routine vaccination to children across northeastern Nigeria to protect them against measles—and prevent future outbreaks”.
Medecins Sans Frontiers has been working in Nigeria since 1996 and has a permanent presence in Borno state since 2014.
The group provides lifesaving medical care in northeastern Nigeria, running projects in Gwoza, Maiduguri, Monguno, Ngala, and Pulka, while the emergency teams respond to disease outbreaks and other urgent humanitarian needs.