Food for thought: Cholera/Zimababwe vs Meningitis/Nigeria


Who remembers

Cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe – The international outcry, consternation at what was happening, at a point….even some suggestion that this might lead to the fall of the Government of Zimbabwe….

Now…who heard about Cerebrospinal Meningitis in Nigeria? Barely a whimper in the press, barely a reaction internationally….not even a public acknowledgement by our president.

Now compare the figures:

Zimbabwe – As of March 2009, 91 164 cases with 4 037 deaths.

Nigeria – As of March 2009, 24 868 cases with 1 513 deaths.

The LANCET reports that it is 47 902 cases 2148 deaths—reporting that the Nigerian Health Ministry has admitted that the outbreak is more serious than was initially suspected. (!?!)

Trying to find out any information about the response in Nigeria is like searching for meet in in my soup bowl while in boarding school….but finally….we did find something….reported …no not by the Ministry of Health, but by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières

MSF reports that;

“At the end of the intervention, almost 4.8 million people will have been vaccinated by MSF/Ministry of Health in Nigeria during this epidemic”

….so whats the food for thought;

Where is the public consternation at so many preventable deaths?

Where is the Government’s explanation for so many preventable deaths?

Where is the Ministry’s explanation for such a slow and fragmented response to an outbreak every one knew was coming for the past 2 years?

How can all of us…our people, our leaders turn and look the other way?

So …what would have happened without MSF?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

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