Sunday, February 25, 2007

Health: Burkina Faso appeals for help to fight meningitis

Help to stop a meningitis outbreak is urgently needed in Burkina Faso

OUAGADOUGOU, 24 February 2007 (IRIN) - The government of Burkina Faso on Friday appealed to international donors for US $1.6 million to help finance efforts to combat a deadly meningitis outbreak.

At least 2,752 cases of bacterial meningitis have been reported this year, including 258 deaths. This is an increase of about 700 cases compared with the same period last year.

"I solemnly appeal to all the partners of Burkina Faso who have always been at our sides to give us their support once again so that we can together overcome as early as possible this epidemic," Health Minister Alain Yoda told reporters on Friday.

He also said the government urgently needed more than three million doses of meningitis vaccine to carry out its inoculation campaign in 15 of the country's provinces.

Last month the government expressed concern that Burkina Faso could face a major meningitis outbreak this year due to a lack of health coverage of some districts that suffered a meningitis outbreak last year. It adopted a $2.2 million plan to combat the illness but is short of money.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Burkina Faso, Dr. Amidou Baba-Moussa, assured the government that some vaccines would be available soon.

Pharmaceutical firms are reluctant to produce large quantities of meningitis vaccines unless major epidemics occur. They rarely deliver more than 500,000 doses to one country, he said.

"There are logics facing each other here: the humanitarian and the industrial ones, and firms will only produce doses of vaccines for which they can get a market," Moussa said.

Meanwhile, the government has launched a communication campaign in 11 local languages to inform people about signs of meningitis. It has also set up a national committee on the outbreak, including WHO, the United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Health authorities have been trained for epidemiologic surveillance.

A vaccination campaign is underway in the epidemic districts of Banfora (west), Batie (southwest) and Titao (north).

Scientists in Mali are experimenting with a drug produced in India that they say could halve the disease's impact once tests are finished in 2009.

Reproduced with the kind permission of IRIN
IRIN 2006
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Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies

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