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Free treatment helps control Togo meningitis outbreak

13 April 2016
The meningitis outbreak has claimed zero deaths in Togo this week, thanks in part to the distribution of medicines and free treatment to affected communities.

Children receive vaccinations to protect them from meningitis
Children receive vaccinations to protect them from meningitis

Meningitis surfaced in Togo in January 2016 and a total of 1,675 cases and 121 deaths have been reported. However, in the past week, 45 new cases have been reported in Togo with zero deaths, suggesting the disease is now under control thanks in part to access to free treatment and medicines. 

Appropriate treatment and care must continue to be given as soon as possible to anyone affected with meningitis. While most people with disease recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. 

Plan International recently donated €58,000 worth of medicine to the Ministry of Health for those in need. 

According to the Director of Health of Blitta District:

“The new batch of drugs donated by Plan International will help provide healthcare in 20 health facilities. Previously, treatment was available only in four caring centres in the whole district. The population feared the hospitals because of the cost of treatment and the distance due to lack of means of transport.”

Donating life-saving medicine

Easy access to treatment is easing the burden on families, too, especially for Essohouna who is caring for his sister.

Essohouna seeks care for his sister
Essohouna seeks care for his sister

“My sister was hospitalized for two days for meningitis. Her condition became very serious as she remained at home for several days before coming for consultation. Her husband didn’t take her to the hospital because he has no money. It’s when I saw her condition that I brought her. We were given medication and I paid for some analysis. If I had paid for all medicines, it would have been too expensive for me. I do not know how I would have done.”

In the ‘plaine de Mô, an isolated area several hours from the hospital, people can now get treatment for meningitis at the health centre of Djarpanga.

The medical assistant says: “The drug delivery has enabled our health centre to support patients with meningitis, which was not done before. More health workers have also been assigned to look after the patients and do spinal taps to confirm cases of meningitis. Previously, patients were sent to the hospital of Bassar, but all of them did not go because of lack of transport and some died on the way.”

When families do visit the health centres they are relieved to hear treatment is free. One family member said: “We had heard that the treatment of meningitis is free but we did not really believe it. The nurse has confirmed that it is true and we are very happy. Otherwise we should have returned to the village and knock at the doors to borrow money.”

Early treatment essential for survival

Realising the meningitis symptoms early and seeking treatment immediately is key to treating this disease says the Regional Director of Health of Kara region, who explains that most deaths are due to late consultation.

Realising the meningitis symptoms early and seeking treatment immediately is key to treating this disease.

"People did not come for consultation due to lack of resources and it would take several days to raise the money before coming to the hospital. We broadcast messages about the availability of free treatment across communities and we will continue to raise awareness so people know where to come for help.”

Indeed, the economic impact of the cost of treatment was heavy on families. The mother of Leah (13), who was hospitalised for meningitis says: “We had nothing in hand when my daughter fell sick and we had to borrow money from our neighbours. Now, we have to pay and do not know how. We will be forced to sell a large part of our harvest to refund those who lent us money. It'll be really hard to cope with the needs of the family in this situation.”

The delivery of drugs and access to free treatment is helping support people in need and allowing those with symptoms of meningitis to seek treatment as soon as possible. In addition, to this donation of life-saving drugs, Plan International Togo is actively involved in the fight against meningitis, raising awareness across communities, holding education sessions about what to do if you think you have meningitis as well as supporting with logistics in the regions and health districts as well as the surveillance of cases.