Meningitis is a condition that causes an inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. It is highly contagious and can cause death within hours. The World Health Organization stated that Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, is frequently prone to meningitis epidemics because of its position in the ‘meningitis belt’ that stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east. A meningitis epidemic that broke out in January 2015 in Niger has killed 75 people so far and has infected 697 people.

Mano Aghali, the health minister, said, “The total number of nationwide cases currently stand at 697. More than half of the deaths have occurred in the capital Niamey but the epidemic has spread to all regions of the country, with the exception of southeastern Diffa near the Nigerian border. A previous report showed that the epidemic had affected 345 people between January 1 and March 29, with 45 fatalities. A vaccination campaign will begin next week in the most affected zones.”

Health authorities have distributed 13,500 doses of the vaccine.