Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated a record 3,965 patients from October to December 2023 in its health facilities in Borno State.
In 12 months, the international medical organisation said it treated 9,618 patients with measles in both of its healthcare facilities – Gwange Paediatric Hospital and Nilefa Kiji Nutrition Hospital – and in MSF-supported primary healthcare (PHC) centres in Maiduguri.
MSF said measles admission to its facilities spiked last year, reaching a record number.
“Despite the vaccination efforts, this worrying situation calls for a rapid reinforcement of routine immunisation campaigns,” Abdulkareem Yakubu, MSF field communication officer, said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
“We did not expect such a large influx of patients, particularly at the end of the year,” explained Abdulwahab Mohamed, MSF medical coordinator, referring to the 3,965 patients treated from October to December, which represent almost three times more than for the same period in 2022.
Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States in the north-east region of Nigeria have suffered from a Boko Haram insurgency lasting for over a decade and a half.
The insurgency has led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions of others. Several schools, residences, health facilities, and roads were destroyed by the insurgents while many communities are still unsafe to access by health workers, teachers and other community service agents.
The MSF statement noted that the rise in the number of cases could be attributed to the inability of public health actors “to achieve the 95 per cent vaccination rate, required to suppress measles.
“This is notably due to the difficulties for the health workers in accessing rural communities surrounding Maiduguri as the insecurity has made vaccination campaigns a difficult endeavour,” the MSF Medical Activity Manager at Gwange Paediatric Hospital, Jombo Tochukwu-Okoli, said.
Other difficulties in achieving higher vaccination coverage as highlighted by the MSF include interruption of routine childhood vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic and outbreak of other diseases like diphtheria and “a longer-than-usual malaria season.”
“The complex security situation in Northern Nigeria, significant funding cuts by international donors for Nigeria, and the continuous neglect of public health infrastructure is alarming.
“Considering the high prevalence of vaccine-preventable outbreaks, such as measles, diphtheria and meningitis, MSF is cautioning international and national stakeholders not to look away at what could be an oncoming perfect storm for a worsening of the humanitarian crisis in 2024,” the statement noted.
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Measles is one of the most contagious viral diseases in the world. Infecting the immune cells, the virus quickly spreads all over the body and eventually affects the respiratory system.