BURKINA FASO-COTE D'IVOIRE: Joint takes on cross-border meningitis

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Health officials from Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have agreed on a cross-border strategy to combat the spread of the meningitis infection.

“From now on as soon as there is a [meningitis] outbreak in either of our countries the other country should be informed immediately so we can start planning, and mobilise our resources together,” Jean Denouma, assistant director-general of the Côte d’Ivoire health ministry said.

The Burkina Faso authorities requested an emergency meeting after they realised most of the new cases in the towns of Mandogara and Banfora and the village of Helintira near the Cote d’Ivoire border and the village of Helintira in the southwest, were made up from Ivorians who were crossing the border, Denouma said.

The Burkina Faso health authorities feared if the two countries did not coordinate, their vaccination campaigns to combat the spread of the infection would fail, said Sylvestre Tiendrébéogo, director of Burkina Faso’s disease control centre. 61 percent of cases at health centres close to the border in Burkina Faso came from Côte d’Ivoire.

Health officials on both sides of the border are most concerned about the situation in the town of Moussokanto which straddles both countries, fearing if the infection is not brought under control it could spread to Bondoukou and Bouna in Cote d’Ivoire, both of which have reported cases and have not vaccinated people since 2005, according to Ivorian officials.

The two countries agreed to conduct synchronised vaccination campaigns, to vaccinate border populations free of charge, and to improve joint epidemiologic surveillance in border regions.

“It is a trans-border epidemic that needs to be managed by authorities from both countries,” said Mamadou Guingaré, a World Health Organization (WHO) official.

Source: IRIN