Meningitis threatens Kigali
NAIROBI, 11 September (IRIN) - A meningitis outbreak is threatening 2
million people in Rwanda, amid concerns that the disease may spread to
the capital Kigali, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement
issued on Tuesday.
"The spread of the disease to Kigali City would be potentially
catastrophic," warned UNICEF representative Theophane Nikyema. "We
desperately need funding in order to quickly bring in the vaccines
necessary to protect people from meningitis."
Concerns were mounting about a possible spread of the disease to the
capital - which has a population of about one million - because of a new
"hotspot" in Bugesera district, near the city, UNICEF project officer
Paul Edwards told IRIN.
"There is regular movement of people between Bugesera and the city, so
we should be prepared for any cases which might occur," he said.
In conjunction with Rwanda's health ministry, Medecins Sans Frontieres,
UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are appealing for US $2
million to support a targeted vaccination programme for those most at
risk. "Ideally the entire country needs to be vaccinated," Gerald Dyer,
Programme Coordinator with UNICEF told IRIN.
UNICEF had already provided 665,000 doses of vaccine and a further
250,000 doses arrived in Kigali on Monday. A total of 683 cases had been
confirmed with 83 deaths, UNICEF said.
The outbreak began in Butare Province (southern Rwanda), and spread to
Kibungo (southeast) Umutara (east), and Kibuye (west), Edwards said.
Within each province there were hotspots of particular concern, he
In the early days of the outbreak, problems had occurred with diagnosis
of the disease, as it was commonly mistaken for malaria, he added. "Now
that there is wider awareness in the health centres that meningitis is
occurring, diagnosis and treatment is quicker, and so the case fatality
rate is decreasing," he said.