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Crisis response summary: Nigeria - Lassa fever

Date added

02 May 2016


On 8 January, Nigeria’s government announced an outbreak of Lassa Fever, which by 14 January, was reported by Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control to have infected at least 140 people and killed 53 people in 14 of the country’s 36 states, indicating a case fatality rate of 37.9 percent.

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On 18 January, ActionAid alerted the Start Fund to this crisis, noting that the number of cases continued to increase, that the Start Fund could offer the rapid response needed (related to behavioural change) to prevent further spread of the disease, and that a National Response meeting being held on 18 January among government ministries and allied institutions was likely to address remedial intervention, but not likely to sufficiently address issues of public health in rural areas, where two-thirds of the country’s population lives.

On 21 January, 69 hours after the Start Fund alert, a project selection committee met in Abuja and awarded £101,150 to two agencies (ActionAid and Christian Aid) to address needs related to Health (community awareness raising on Lassa Fever transmission and prevention and strengthening reporting and referral systems at the local government level) and WaSH (awareness raising on hand washing techniques).

Agencies experienced several challenges during implementation. Both projects struggled to implement within 45 days, given the lengthy timeframes for producing and delivering IEC materials and bureaucratic government processes, particularly around beneficiary identification. ActionAid in particular faced delays in receiving government authorisation to conduct its sensitisation campaign in schools across one of its states of operation, given that the state’s Permanent Secretary of Education had been fired and permission had to be obtained instead from the Permanent Secretary of the State Universal Basic Education Agency. Additionally, Christian Aid faced significant delays to the start of its activities as a result of its coordination with the Ministry of Health, which took longer than expected to review and pre-test IEC materials.

These two projects reached 176,900 people (46% female, 54% male) with £94,786, 75,150 more people than planned. Agencies targeted areas of poor sanitation and crowded living conditions in communities most at risk from this outbreak, with particular attention paid to 1) Women, who are the most active in the areas of care giving, food processing and house cleaning, and are more exposed to the Lassa virus through contact with contaminated food as well as bushes around their homes where rodents reside (the primary vector for the virus), 2) pregnant women, whose cases of the virus are often fatal, and 3) children and students, due to their capacity to disseminate information among their peers and family members. Children under 18 (10%) and people over 50 (13%) together made up 23% of people reached.

Download the Crisis Response Summary