For more than a century, meningitis has swept across sub-Saharan Africa on dusty winds with unstoppable force. With each epidemic, the disease decimates communities, killing one in ten people who fall ill and leaving one-quarter of survivors with mental disabilities or profound hearing loss. A new vaccine created by PATH and the World Health Organization has the potential to end the epidemics. Now we need additional support to make sure the vaccine reaches millions of young people across Africa.
In December 2010, people across Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger began receiving a meningitis vaccine developed specifically to target the strain of the disease most destructive to people living in Africa's 25-country meningitis belt. In 2011, young Africans in Chad, Nigeria, and Cameroon started receiving the vaccine as well. As of December 2012, more than 100 million people across ten African countries have received that same lifesaving protection.
If enough people receive the vaccine, WHO estimates it will protect 450 million people from the disease and save nearly 150,000 lives. Epidemic meningitis A will be a memory.