Children are the worst hit in the outbreak of meningitis in Zamfara State as hospitals and health care centres in the state struggle to keep up with the rising number of cases.
In the centres our correspondent visited on Saturday in the state capital, Gusau, several meningitis patients, especially children, lay on bare floors outside the premises of hospital wards, which have run out of bed-spaces.
Several health workers told SUNDAY PUNCH that the primary health centres in the state were overwhelmed due to the outbreak, noting that cases have continued to rise owing to a combination of factors, including the lack of bed spaces at the centres and general hospitals, lack of facilities and shortage of medical personnel to handle the outbreak in the state.
At the Shehu Shagari Primary Health Care centre, visited by our correspondent, many children were seen writhing in pain.
Health workers said they were overwhelmed by the number of patients they had to treat daily.
At one of the hallways opposite the filled meningitis ward, a number of children aged between 10 and 13 lay motionless, surrounded by their worried loved ones who called out to hospital staff to attend to the patients. About an hour later, one of the health attendants came to administer treatment on two children gasping for breath.
Our correspondent gathered that two children had died the previous day, adding to the number of deaths recorded in the hospital, which had only three doctors to attend to the patients.
The doctor in charge of the hospital, Dr. Bashir Ali, was seen attending to different patients as he could hardly stay in one ward.
“I cannot speak to you on the issue without an authorisation from the state ministry of health to do so. The directive has to come from the director of public health,” Ali told SUNDAY PUNCH.
However, one of the health workers in the hospital said the number of cases and deaths had risen in the last three weeks.
At the Shehu Shagari Hospital, hundreds of children were being given vaccination for the disease. One of the nurses administering the vaccination said the vaccines were donated by the World Health Organisation only a few days ago.
Similarly, in the PHC in Kwanta, Gusau, there was no bed-space for patients as some were seen in the hallways outside the wards.
Our correspondent also gathered that, unlike Shehu Shagari Hospital, the health centre had no vaccine supplies.
The doctor at the centre explained that they did not have enough bed-spaces and could not cope with the number of patients.
The doctor noted that the lack of facilities and laboratory at the centre meant they had to rely on guesswork and symptoms to determine if the patients were suffering from meningitis or not.
“We are overwhelmed. As you can see, we don’t have any more bed-space. We are still awaiting the results of the samples we sent to the ministry of health,” he said.
It was the same scenario at the PHC, Damba, in Gusau.
Over 200 persons, mostly children, have been killed by meningitis in the state.
When contacted, the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Abdullahi Shinkafi, who is also the Chairman of the Committee on the Prevention and Control of Meningitis in the state, told SUNDAY PUNCH that he could not give accurate figures on the casualties immediately.
“We will be having a technical review meeting later. Please call me later,” he said.