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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 10:35 GMT
Diseases hit northwest Nigeria

Outbreaks of meningitis and measles in the northwest of Nigeria are reported to have killed nearly 200 children.

The health authorities have urged families to bring children for vaccination, but say they are having problems persuading them, because of misinformation that vaccines contain the HIV virus and can lead to sterility.

The authorities in the impoverished state of Sokoto have been mobilising their scarce resources to fight outbreaks of the two deadly diseases.

They have been trying to restrict movements to and from some villages and have appealed to families to bring their children to clinics to be vaccinated.

Crisis

But they complain that some families are not responding.

They blame this at least in part on a mysterious cassette that has been widely circulating in northern Nigeria which says that western powers have ensured that vaccines contain the Aids virus and can lead to sterility.

Revelations that the American company, Pfizer, tested an experimental drug during an earlier epidemic of meningitis in the northern city of Kano have also received widespread publicity in Nigeria.

Officials in Sokoto say the publicity surrounding the Pfizer case has made it even more difficult to carry out vaccination programmes.

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