Meningitis outbreak in Togo puts children at risk

25 February 2016

Plan International is prioritising the needs of children as cases of meningitis continue to rise in the West African country of Togo.

Togo is in the midst of a meningitis outbreak with cases now spreading from the Kara region to the Central and Savannah regions located in north.

Meningitis disease is an infection of the meninges, the membrane covering the brain and the spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis is very serious - its onset is rapid and the infection is associated with a significant risk of death.

While most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities.

Children most vulnerable

As of 19 February 2016, 447 cases of meningitis have been reported in Togo, including 34 deaths. Cases began to surface in January 2016 and have since continued to rise. Children currently make up 65% of the cases.

Infants, children below the age of 5, adolescents and young adults are most at risk and Plan International is prioritising the needs of children such as Essoouna and Denise.

Essoouna, 14, is currently in hospital as he fights meningitis.

“I have been suffering a lot,” says Essoouna. “My mother took me to a small hospital in the village. When I got there, the nurse told me I had to go to the hospital which is 3 kilometres from here. After they examined me, they said I was suffering from meningitis. I was scared because I didn’t know if they could cure the disease. I feel better now and the doctor told me that after 10 days I should be able to leave the hospital and return to school.”

Denise, 10, was hospitalised earlier this week with suspected meningitis.

According to her dad, “Denise returned from school and started crying because she had a headache and stomach ache. In the night, it got worse and in the morning she had a headache and stiff neck. We went to the clinic, who sent us to the hospital. It was there that it was confirmed my daughter had meningitis.”

Vaccination roll out

Treatment for meningitis is currently free in Togo and those who suspect they have it are being encouraged to visit the hospital as early as possible to avoid complications and serious consequences.

Plan International Togo is working with communities to provide timely and accurate information, and support public health authorities as they work to prevent, diagnose and treat meningitis.

As part of the national crisis team in coordination with the government and partners, we are supporting communication and social mobilisation campaigns as well as the roll out of vaccinations.

According to Olivier Adom, a health worker in Sotouboua:

“Vaccination is the best way to prevent meningitis but we must continue to raise awareness about the issue. Campaigns are taking place in schools and across radio and now children know the symptoms. We can see the awareness-raising campaigns are beginning to bear fruit is as more outpatient visits for headaches and pain are taking place, but there is still much to do.”

Find out more about Plan International’s work in Togo