Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Meningitis Epidemic in Ivory Coast and Burkina

During 2007 around 1,500 people died from meningitis in Burkina Faso.

So far this year, 441 people have died out of 4,061 cases reported.

The meningitis outbreak this year is centred along the Ivory Coast/Burkina Faso border where the majority of the Loron people live. Of 16 affected districts in Burkina Faso, the outbreak had reached epidemic proportions in seven of them. Across the border in Ivory Coast, local health authorities said that there is an epidemic in the Zanzan border region.

Both Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso are on the sub-Saharan "meningitis belt" that stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, and outbreaks of meningitis occur annually during the dry season between November and April.

In an encouraging (and, I think, unprecedented) display of coordination and cooperation between the Ivorian and Burkinabé health authorities, a joint strategy has been developed and is being effectively implemented to deal with the outbreak.

We witnessed the vaccination campaign first-hand as it was being unrolled in the Gogo area of Ivory Coast about two weeks ago. In fact we got a meningitis booster along with all the other villagers.

We were impressed with the efficiency and dedication of the health professionals as they worked long hours and travelled to some almost inaccessible locations. The Freewill Baptist hospital in Doropo had overall responsibility for the operation in the Gogo region.

A number of the Loron believers who help run the Gogo health clinic accompanied and worked along with the folks from the Baptist hospital as they visited each village in the area. Together with a couple of Ivorian medical employees, they administered around 6,000 vaccinations in the region.

We are hoping that the vaccination campaign will help to stem the tide of the epidemic in Burkina and Ivory Coast.