Diphtheria Outbreaks Ravage West Africa: Millions Vaccinated as Death Toll Rises, Urgent Global Action Needed

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In Nigeria, where a top health official revealed that millions are undergoing vaccination to bridge significant gaps in immunity, the toll of the current outbreak, starting in December 2022, stands at 573 deaths out of 11,640 diagnosed cases.

Diphtheria Outbreaks Ravage West Africa
Diphtheria Outbreaks Ravage West Africa ( Photo: Premium Times Nigeria )

Diphtheria outbreaks are wreaking havoc across several West African nations, with authorities scrambling to contain the crisis

Despite a decline due to treatment efforts, the actual toll could be much higher, especially in states struggling to detect Diphtheria outbreak cases. Niger reports 37 deaths out of 865 cases, while Guinea has seen 58 deaths out of 497 since its outbreak in June.

“This is the largest Diphtheria Outbreak that we have had,” states Ifedayo Adetifa, head of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. According to Doctors Without Borders, the highly contagious infection has surfaced in 20 of Nigeria’s 36 states, primarily fueled by a historical vaccination gap. Only 42% of Nigerian children under 15 are fully protected, and Guinea’s immunization rate is at 47%, well below the WHO’s recommended 80–85% for community protection.

Global vaccine shortages exacerbate the crisis, with demand surging to counter Diphtheria outbreaks

Dr. Dagemlidet Tesfaye Worku from MSF stresses the urgent need for a massive vaccination scale-up. The Nigerian government is intensifying vaccination efforts for targeted populations, aiding states in enhancing case detection and management. However, challenges persist in states like Kano, contributing over 75% of cases but possessing only two treatment centers, creating hurdles for those needing to travel long distances for treatment.


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