The UN World Health Organisation (WHO) warned yesterday that there were not enough vaccines for the forthcoming meningitis season in African countries affected by the disease. The Geneva-based organisation said in a statement that a minimum global stock of seven million doses was needed, but only six million were available to deal with the current epidemic which began in 1996. In West Africa, there have been 300,000 cases of meningitis in Senegal alone.
Lindsay Martinez, Director of WHO’s Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response, said countries still being hit by the current epidemic needed an effective international response which meant maintaining sufficient vaccine stocks and a smoothly functioning system.
Martinez warned that given the fact that several African countries affected by meningitis had not yet experienced an upsurge in this epidemic cycle, the number of cases might increase dramatically in the near future. Approximately 280 million people are at risk across the “meningitis belt”, which extends from Ethiopia in the east to Senegal in the west. WHO said that the countries worst affected so far included Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.