Red Cross Calls for Urgent Aid as Meningitis Sweeps Ethiopia
An epidemic of meningitis in Ethiopia is threatening 8.4 million people, the Red Cross said Thursday, appealing for financial aid to help fight the highly contagious and deadly disease.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said it needed around one million Swiss francs (645,000 euros, 609,000 dollars) to buy vaccinations for one and a half million people in high-risk regions, among them Oromia and Amhara.
"It is vital that we act now," said an IFRC medical epidemiologist, as 16 percent of the population of the impoverished African nation is at risk.
Unless it is treated rapidly, meningitis -- an infection of the membrane surrounding the brain and spine -- kills between 50 and 80 percent of those infected.
"There is serious cause for alarm about the spread of the epidemic. While to date there have been 1,348 cases reported and 108 deaths confirmed, this is probably a serious under-estimate of the reality on the ground," said the epidemiologist, Bradley Hersch.
Hersch said Ethiopian government figures that 8.4 million people were at risk were "all too realistic." – GENEVA (AFP)