Punch Metro –
Residents of Otodo-Gbame Community in Ikate, Lekki, Lagos State, are battling to save their children from a vaccine preventable disease which has claimed the lives of no fewer than 25 children in the area.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the yet-to-be-identified disease, which started in January 2016, has brought panic to the predominantly Egun community, as the affected children developed rashes similar to measles, and usually died two to three days after.
Our correspondent gathered that some families, most of whom work as fishermen and fish sellers, lost two to three children each while the disease ravaged the area in January and first week of February.
When PUNCH Metro visited the area on Monday, it was learnt that health workers from the Eti-Osa Local Government Area had visited the community last Wednesday and had started immunisation for children.
Our correspondent learnt that two children, however, died in the presence of the health workers while the immunisation was being administered.
Speaking with PUNCH Metro, a woman, Anago Benedict, who lost three of her children to the disease, and gave their names as Taiye, Kehinde and Jisine, said apart from the rashes on their bodies, they also vomited blood before they died.
She said, “My children fell sick in the first week of February. The disease is ravaging our area, and we did not have anyone to run to.
“My children were killed by the disease. They were vomiting blood. I did not know what name to call the disease.”
Another woman, Stella Paul, who is the mother of one of the two children that died on Wednesday, said the girl was ill for only two days.
She said, “Her name was Esther. She was two years old. She died on Wednesday in the presence of the health workers. She was sick for only two days. I have three children. Esther was the youngest. Emmanuel is the first.”
Another resident, Atuku Daddy, who lost his niece, Kehinde Petito, urged the government to provide health care facilities in the community, as they lacked any government hospital.
He said, “The girl was two years old. She died on February 8. She was ill for just three days, and she was rushed to the hospital, where she died.
“In the night, she could not sleep. Some of the symptoms we saw were swollen private parts and high temperature. We call it Ina oru. In the afternoon, she would play, but in the evening, her body would become hot.
“I work as a fisherman, and I was born in this community. Nothing of such had happened in our area before now. Our grandfathers usually told us that there had not been any epidemic. But since January, many children had died in our area from the disease.
“A family lost up to three children to the disease. That is why we appeal to the state government to give us a hospital. Since the immunisation started last Wednesday, the rate of contracting the disease is getting minimal.”
Kehinde’s grandmother, Bose Petito, who works as a cleaner in a private school in Lekki Phase 1, said, “I have taken her twin brother for vaccination. They also gave him drugs to use. The signs of the disease are on him too, but they are not serious. It was sad to lose her, but we are fine now. The mother has gone to work.”
Bose Petito and children
Bose Petito and children
Our correspondent also observed the rashes on Taiye’s legs and stomach during the interview.
A resident, who identified himself only as Jonathan, said the health workers collected the water and food samples of the residents to find out the cause of the disease.
Jonathan added that residents had raised the alarm since January, but help did not come on time.
He said, “Between January and February 2016, we had deaths of many children. They would have a brief illness and they would die.
“So far in February, we have had about 20 children who died. When the health workers came, they took our water and food samples to the laboratory for tests, but I do not know what they found out.
“We raised the alarm when these deaths started, but no one came to our rescue. Since Wednesday, people have been turning out for the immunisation.”
However, the state Ministry of Health said it had sent epidemiologists to the community to verify the outbreak.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Mrs. Adeola Salako, said the blood samples and other body fluids of children with suspected cases had been collected for examination.
She said, “An epidemiological investigation, led by the state epidemiologists from the Ministry of Health, commenced on Wesdnesday, February 10.
‘The investigation is meant to verify the assertions and the cause of deaths through laboratory investigation of water, throat swabs and blood samples of children with suspected cases and to proffer solutions.
“It is worthy of note that no further death has been recorded since then.”