Tackling Togo's meningitis outbreak with community work

Children and communities affected by Togo's meningitis outbreak are spreading life-saving health messages with support from Plan International

Community awareness is key to tackling the meningitis outbreak in Togo, which has affected over 1,200 people and killed 102 so far.

Plan International and volunteers have been educating children and communities so they know how to recognise the signs of meningitis, what to do if they contract meningitis and where to seek care.

''We have been running community meetings in the Central Region of Togo. Out of those who have been attending, nearly 45,000 people, including more than 30,200 children, have been affected,” says Mohamed Tchakala who is coordinating Plan International’s response in the Central Region. “We are working with schools, women's groups, children's clubs, and community leaders to raise awareness about meningitis.”

To ensure a safe and swift recovery, patients must seek treatment as soon as possible and community-based activities are key to getting the message out and about.

Radio meningitis messages

As well as educating communities, Plan International is also working with health workers so they can raise awareness about the meningitis outbreak too, while information is shared across local community radio stations in French and local languages.

“Everyone is worried in case meningitis strikes their community. Our interactive radio programmes allow people to ask questions and share their concerns,” says the head of the community radio station in Sokode.

“Meningitis has caused many casualties in Togo,” says Sabine, 11, who is educating her peers about the risks of meningitis through a local radio show. “Children are the most vulnerable. That’s why we want to educate our comrades and their parents so they know how to avoid it."

Community member Robert wished he had learnt about the dangers of meningitis earlier.

“My wife was never ill. When she said she had pain everywhere, she took the tablets that were being sold on the roadside,” says Robert. “The next day her body was very hot. Two days later, she prepared plants for treatment. Her condition got worse, so we had to go to the healer. The healer couldn’t do anything, so I took her to the hospital where she died 2 days later. Now I know that if you’re experiencing symptoms, you must go to the health centre immediately.”

Awareness saves lives

Raising awareness is critical for communities and it can have positive effects if the messages are distributed early.

“When my daughter, Denise, had a headache and neck ache, I quickly took her to the health centre. I had heard about the dangers of meningitis on the radio and it encouraged me to seek help quickly,'' says Denise’s father.

Plan International is working with communities to raise awareness about the meningitis outbreak, as well as donating medicine to Togo’s Ministry of Health to help treat people affected by the disease.