Meningitis is spreading in Rwanda, UNICEF warns

Meningitis is spreading in Rwanda, UNICEF warns

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A meningitis outbreak in Rwanda is threatening the lives of some 2 million people amid fears that the disease may spread close to Kigali, the capital, endangering another 1 million residents, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned today.

A meningitis outbreak in Rwanda is threatening the lives of some 2 million people amid fears that the disease may spread close to Kigali, the capital, endangering another 1 million residents, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned today.

Thanks to a UNICEF-backed vaccination programme, the situation is improving in some areas, but new outbreaks are stretching the available resources to their limit, the agency said, appealing for resources to respond.

Rwanda's Ministry of Health, in collaboration with UNICEF, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and Médecins Sans Frontières, issued an appeal for $2 million to support a mass vaccination programme targeting the 2 million people most at risk and to cover areas of the country which are vulnerable to the spread of the disease.

"The spread of the disease to Kigali City would be potentially catastrophic," warned UNICEF Representative Theophane Nikyema. He pledged that the agency would work with its partners to contain the disease, but stressed the need for funds. "We desperately need funding in order to quickly bring in the vaccines necessary to protect people from meningitis," he said.

UNICEF has already provided 665,000 doses of vaccine and a further 250,000 doses arrived in Kigali today. So far, there have been 683 confirmed cases of meningitis, with 83 deaths.