Almost 3,000 people have died in northern Nigeria, Niger and Chad in the worst outbreak of meningitis for five years. A massive vaccination programme against the disease is under way.
In Nigeria’s northern Zamfara State health authorities are targeting some of the 50,000 people who have contracted the disease since the start of the epidemic in February. Children and young adults are most at risk.
People have turned out in large numbers at the vaccination sites set up in remote areas. In previous years mass vaccination campaigns for diseases like polio have been rejected by people who have been suspicious of them.
The vaccination campaign is unprecedented in its size and requires the co-ordination of thousands of doctors and nurses and the logistics to ensure the vaccines are kept cold to prevent them from spoiling.
A total of eight million people are being immunised. "Health workers visited our village to explain why it is important to come and get the vaccination," Tayo Agunbiade says. "I am happy to be able to protect my family."
Meningitis is a seasonal disease that affects the Sahel region on an annual basis. In the most remote villages there is little or no health care.
Emergency medical teams have also been organising door-to-door vaccination services to reach the people most in need.
As well as giving immunisations, the health teams also treat the sick. At the peak of the epidemic, hundreds of people were turning out every week in hospitals and clinics.
When treated early, meningitis patients recover within days. The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (Echo) has spent more than $6m on the campaign. Photos and text: Claire Barrault, Echo
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