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MSF in Nigeria, 2001
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Measles Ravage the City of Kano
The people of Nigeria face a climate of increasing social decay and poverty, despite the promise of improved conditions that accompanied the country's return to civilian rule in 1999. The health system suffered under years of military dictatorship and neglect. Diseases such as malaria, cholera, meningitis, and yellow fever continue to affect millions; this year a measles epidemic swept through the city of Kano, in northern Nigeria.
The outbreak of measles reached epidemic status in early 2001. The fatality rate in the main hospital in Kano was almost 20% and the caseload continued to grow into the early summer before peaking. From January through June, MSF treated 2,000 severely ill children. MSF has been helping the hospitals deal with measles, meningitis, cholera, and yellow fever since 1996 by providing drugs, conducting training sessions, monitoring the epidemiological situation in Kano through a sentinel surveillance system, and responding to epidemics when necessary.
MSF also has an ongoing malaria program in the state of Bayelsa, in the Niger Delta, where this disease remains the leading cause of death for children under five. MSF uses boats to reach people throughout this watery lowland in order to carry out diagnosis with mobile labs and provide effective malaria treatment. MSF is also studying resistance to certain anti-malarials.
Violent Clashes Prompt MSF Response
In July 2001, clashes between the Azara and Tiv peoples in Nasawara State resulted in an estimated 200 deaths and the displacement of an estimated 50,000 people. MSF donated drugs and medical materials to a hospital in Lafia, the capital of Nasawara, to care for the wounded. In Benue State, MSF provided medical aid items to clinics in camps for displaced people. MSF also aided victims of the tension between Muslims and Christians in the state of Kaduna in May 2000, after the proposed introduction of sharia—or Islamic—law in that area led to violent clashes.
In light of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Nigeria, MSF expects to begin a program to care for and treat HIV-positive sex workers in Lagos in fall 2001. The program will include antiretroviral treatment for some patients.