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WHO Launches Global Campaign to Eliminate Meningitis

An estimated 250,000 deaths are caused by bacterial Meningitis annually. This form of the disease is the most serious and fast spreading. Data from WHO shows the disease kills one in every ten people infected, with one out of five infected persons suffering log lasting disabilities such as; seizures, hearing and vision loss, neurological damage, and cognitive impairment. The disease mostly affects children and young people.According to WHO, the strategy called,' the Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030 will save as many as 200,000 lives annually
The World Health Organisation has launched the first global strategy to end Meningitis by 2030.

Meningitis is a dangerous inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, predominantly caused by infection with bacteria and viruses. 

The strategy called,' the Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030, aims at stopping bacterial meningitis in the world. It will focus on preventing infections by increasing access to vaccines and improving care; and diagnosis of the disease.

It will  also focus on developing new affordable vaccines, collection of good dates to guide prevention and control efforts and advocacy to ensure awareness.

According to WHO, the strategy will save as many as 200,000 lives annually. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general says the strategy has the ability to eliminate Meningitis globally once and for all.

"Wherever it occurs, meningitis can be deadly and debilitating; it strikes quickly, has serious health, economic and social consequences, and causes devastating outbreaks. It is time to tackle meningitis globally once and for all –by urgently expanding access to existing tools like vaccines, spearheading new research and innovation to prevent, detecting and treating the various causes of the disease, and improving rehabilitation for those affected," he said.

An estimated 250,000 deaths are caused by bacterial Meningitis annually. This form of the disease is the most serious and fast spreading. Data from WHO shows the disease kills one in every ten people infected, with one out of five infected persons suffering log lasting disabilities such as; seizures, hearing and vision loss, neurological damage, and cognitive impairment. The disease mostly affects children and young people.

Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa has reported most of the Meningitis outbreaks in the world. The most recent outbreak was reported in the North-Eastern Tshopo province early this month. More than 261 suspected cases and 129 deaths has been reported by September 8,2021.

The WHO Africa region director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti says a shift is needed in the global response of the disease. She says the global strategy will enable all countries address the disease on an equal footing.

“More than half a billion Africans are at risk of seasonal meningitis outbreaks but the disease has been off the radar for too long.This shift away from firefighting outbreaks to strategic response can’t come soon enough. This roadmap will help protect the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of families who every year fear this disease," Dr Moeti said.

Several vaccines protect against meningitis, including meningococcal, Haemophilus influenzae type b and pneumococcal vaccines. However, not all communities have access to these lifesaving vaccines, and many countries are yet to introduce them into their national programmes. 

In 2008, Uganda was declared Meningitis free after the introduction of the Hib ( Haemophilia Influenzae type B) bacterial meningitis after the number of deaths under five reduced from 88 per 100,000 to almost zero. This happened after the introduction of the Hib vaccine in 2001 with support of GAVI. 

Despite this, the country is on high alert following the outbreak in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

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