woman holding meningitis vaccine Albert González Farran/ UNAMID via Flikr

قَهر التهاب السحايا في أفريقيا

سياتل ــ كان التقدم الذي أحرزته أفريقيا في مكافحة التهاب السحايا (أ) واحداً من أفضل الأسرار حِفظاً في مجال الصحة العالمية. فبفضل تطوير ونشر لقاح منخفض التكلفة، أُنقِذَت أرواح مئات الآلاف من الأطفال، وازدهرت المجتمعات التي كان المرض ليدمرها لولا ذلك.

يحدث التهاب السحايا (أ) نتيجة لعدوى المكورات السحائية البكتيرية التي تصيب الغشاء الرقيق المحيط بالدماغ والحبل الشوكي، ومن الممكن أن يفضي هذا المرض إلى الموت. ولأكثر من قرن من الزمن، اجتاحت الأوبئة 26 دولة في بلدان جنوب الصحراء الكبرى في أفريقيا، وقتلت وأصابت بالعجز عشرات الآلاف من الشباب في المقام الأول سنويا. ويثير هذا المرض مخاوف شديدة في القارة؛ فهو قادر على قتل ضحاياه أو إصابتهم بتلف دماغي شديد في غضون ساعات.

يتفشى المرض عادة في بداية السنة الشمسية،عندما تبدأ الرياح الجافة من الصحراء الكبرى تهب جنوبا. وقد أسفر وباء 1996-1997 عن إصابة 250 ألف حالة ونحو 25 ألف وفاة في البلدان الواقعة جنوب الصحراء الكبرى في أفريقيا، بينهم العديد من الأطفال. وبين الناجين، أصيب واحد من كل أربعة بإعاقات دائمة، بما في ذلك الشلل، والعمى، وفقدان السمع، ونوبات الصرع، والتلف الدماغي.

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