The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof Ali Pate, on Wednesday, said the rotavirus disease claims the lives of more than 330 African children under the age of five every day, along with a significant burden on families and healthcare systems.
Pate said this at the 14th African Rotavirus Symposium, organised by the African Rotavirus Network in Abuja with the theme, “Rotavirus Disease Control in Africa: Vaccination and Surveillance as the Foundation of an Integrated Approach.”
The symposium was also co-hosted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Paediatric Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Medical Association, the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, among others.
Rotavirus is a leading cause of severe diarrhoea in children. Its impact is devastating, leading to countless hospitalisations, misuse of antimicrobials, and tragically, the loss of lives.
Rotavirus primarily affects children below the age of five, with most infections occurring before their second year of life.
The diarrhoeal disease ranks among the leading causes of death in children worldwide, with rotavirus being the most common culprit.
Pate, who was represented by the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, noted that nearly a quarter of a million children under the age of five succumb to rotavirus annually, and hundreds of thousands more are hospitalised.
He said, “In sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of children get infected before they reach 18 months, contributing to half of the global deaths.
“On average, rotavirus claims the lives of more than 330 African children under the age of five every day, along with a significant burden on families and healthcare systems.
“However, there is hope. Since 2009, African countries have introduced rotavirus vaccination into their routine immunisation schedules, with South Africa being the earliest adopter. South Africa became the first African nation to introduce rotavirus vaccines in 2009. These vaccines have proven to be safe, offering broad protection, reducing rotavirus-related hospitalisations, and proving cost-effective.”
The Minister noted that the ongoing symposium, organised presents an exceptional opportunity to exchange ideas, share experiences, and enhance knowledge of the disease.
“This event has brought together experts, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and researchers from across Africa and beyond to discuss the latest breakthroughs in rotavirus prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. It’s a chance for us to learn from each other and foster collaborations that will drive innovation and progress in our fight against this disease.
“Let us explore the latest research, share best practices, and work together to strengthen our commitment to reducing the burden of rotavirus in our communities.
“Together, we can save lives, reduce pain, and produce health, contributing to a prosperous Africa. Let us unite in our shared mission to protect the health of our children and improve the well-being of our nations.”
In his remarks, the DG of NCDC, Dr Adetifa stated that the symposium provides a unique platform to share experiences, and learn from one another.
“It will serve as a hub for robust discussions on the latest advancements in rotavirus prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
“Your expertise and insights are invaluable in shaping the future of healthcare in Africa. Through collaboration and knowledge sharing, we can make significant strides in combating rotavirus and improving the health outcomes of our children. This symposium promises to be a gathering of great minds and passionate individuals committed to making a positive difference,” he said.