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Nigeria: Cholera spreads as EU launches Africa vaccine drive

Alex Berry
June 20, 2024

A deadly outbreak of cholera in the Nigerian state of Lagos has killed at least 21 people. It comes as the EU pledges millions to help fund vaccine production in Africa for such outbreaks.

o women buy mobile phone cards from a stall close to sewage water in Abuja, Nigeria
Cholera, which often spreads through sewage water, has been hitting Nigeria with repeated outbreaks over the last few yearsImage: Gbemiga Olamikan/AP/picture alliance

At least 21 people have died from a cholera in Nigeria's densely populated Lagos State, a health official said on Thursday.

The news came as the European Union announced it would pledge €750 million (more than $800 million) for the launch of the African Vaccines Manufacturing Accelerator (AVMA) scheme.

The program, announced in Paris, aims to boost the production of vaccines in Africa to help the continent respond more independently to outbreaks, including the recent spate of cholera outbreaks that have hit many parts of Africa.

Festivities feed cholera surge

More than 400 cholera cases have been reported in Lagos State since the start of the outbreak, Nigerian newspaper The Guardian reported.

The governor's special advisor on health, Kemi Ogunyemi, said many of the new cases could be attributed to Eid al-Adha festivities, referred to as Ileya in Yoruba, the newspaper reported.

"The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the State Ministry of Environment and its agency, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), continues to collect samples of water sources, food, and beverages to identify the source of contamination," she said.

The health official said that although cases were up in the state, suspected cases were down across several areas that had been previously affected.

Ogunyemi called on residents to seek medical attention if they experienced watery diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, general malaise and fever and that treatment for cholera is free at public health facilities, the Premium Times reported.

Africa's home-grown pharmaceutical industry

The AVMA announcement came after major gaps were seen between Western and African nations in respect to the provision of COVID-19 vaccines during the global pandemic.

The new program was launched in cooperation with the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The AVMA plans to make €1 billion available and to purchase 800 million doses from African vaccine producers to offset high start-up costs.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his government would provide €318 million.

Cameroon starts first malaria vaccination program for children

French President Emmanuel Macron said the scheme "will be an essential step towards a genuine African vaccine market."

The new program "could become a catalyst for promoting the pharmaceutical industry in Africa and fostering collaboration between member states," African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat told the summit.

Africa currently imports "99 percent of its vaccines at an exorbitant cost," he added.

AFP contributed to the writing of this story.

Edited by: Louis Oelofse