ABUJA — As one of the largest and fastest growing nations in the world, Nigeria has emerged as a global economic player and taken on increased importance as the “Giant of Africa.” The continued presence of threatening diseases in Nigeria has recently prompted the country to take greater initiative in eliminating diseases such as malaria, ebola and meningitis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, malaria is currently the biggest threat to Nigerians, accounting for 20 percent of deaths annually. Though still a dangerous disease, malaria is on the decline in Nigeria as new cases have been more infrequent.
From 2010 to 2015, there was a 35 percent decline in children under the age of five who tested positive for malaria. One of the main reasons for the decreasing cases is that the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets has increased dramatically in the last 10 years, with nearly 70 percent of households in possession of at least one net.
Other common diseases in Nigeria that are contracted from mosquitos include Yellow Fever and Dengue fever, though they have much lower mortality rates than malaria. Respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and lower respiratory infections account for the second leading cause of deadly disease in Nigeria. Other top diseases in Nigeria that pose a current threat include HIV/AIDS and diarrheal diseases.
One of the most recent success stories regarding diseases in Nigeria is the near eradication of polio. Despite the setback of a recent outbreak in 2016, vaccination campaigns in the last decade have brought Nigeria closer to eliminating the threat of Polio once and for all. Currently, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is leading the way for a Polio-free Nigeria by spreading awareness about the necessity of vaccines and working with Nigerian leaders to gain further support.
During the ebola outbreak in Nigeria that began in 2014, the country responded with rapid containment, using surveillance and isolation of contacts to limit the spread of the disease. After only a few months, the outbreak had been controlled and was labeled a “spectacular success story” by the World Health Organization.
Meningitis and tuberculosis also present a threat to Nigerians today as together, these bacterial infections are responsible for about five percent of Nigerian deaths yearly. As a highly contagious bacterial disease, meningitis usually flares up in concentrated outbreaks in Nigeria such as in the April 2017 outbreak which resulted in over 1000 deaths.
The outbreak prompted another mass vaccination campaign, drawing in support from other parts of the world including the United States and the United Kingdom. With these efforts, the Nigerian government hopes to make vaccines more readily available to prevent the spread of bacterial disease in the future.
– Nicholas Dugan