The European Union has released €150,000 (about N75 million) in humanitarian funds to help prevent the spread of diphtheria cases and assist the most affected communities in Kano, Katsina, Lagos, and Osun States.
The release of the funds, the EU Commission said on Monday was in response to the significant increase in recorded cases of diphtheria in Nigeria since the beginning of 2023.
EU funding would enable the Nigerian Red Cross to provide emergency assistance to reduce the impact of diphtheria on affected and at-risk communities through risk communication, outbreak control activities, surveillance, patient referral and hygiene promotion, and early case detection in affected areas.
Humanitarian assistance would directly and indirectly target around 1,585,080 people, with a particular focus on vulnerable people at risk of diphtheria, those living in sheltered communities or hard-to-reach locations.
This funding is part of the EU’s overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
On January 20, 2023, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) officially declared an outbreak of diphtheria in Kano and Lagos states after several suspected cases appeared a month earlier.
The disease then spread rapidly to other states. From 136 cases in the first week of 2023, the country now records a total of 733 suspected cases,and deplores89 fatalities.
The outbreak was described as one of the most serious occurrences in Nigeria in recent years,with children aged between 5 and 18 years as the most vulnerable group.
Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infection transmitted between humans. It causes an infection of the upper respiratory tract, which could lead to breathing difficulties and suffocation. Those most at risk are children and people who have not been fully vaccinated against the disease.
The European Union, together with its Member States, is the leading donor of humanitarian aid in the world. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity towards people in need around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent, and alleviate human suffering and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises.
The European Union through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department helps millions of victims of conflicts and disasters every year. Through its headquarters in Brussels and its global network of field offices, the EU provides assistance to the most vulnerable people based on humanitarian need alone.
The European Commission has so far signed a €3million humanitarian delegation agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), to support the Federation’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).
Funds from the DREF are mainly allocated to ‘small-scale’ disasters, those that do not give rise to a formal international appeal.
The Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) was established in 1985 and is supported by contributions from donors. Each time a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society needs immediate financial support to respond to a disaster, it can request funds from the DREF.
For small-scale disasters, the IFRC allocates grants from the Fund, which can be replenished by the donors. The delegation agreement between the IFRC and ECHO enables the latter to replenish the DREF for agreed operations (within its humanitarian mandate) up to a total of €3 million.