World Meningitis Day 2020: The Impact of Global Partnerships in Fighting Bacterial Meningitis

April 24 marks World Meningitis Day. Its purpose is to raise awareness about the dangers of meningitis, which is a life-threatening infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meningitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

At just 18 years old Rahinatou Hamidou Amadou faced this illness. Bacterial meningitis has persisted in sub-Saharan Africa including the Republic of Niger where she lives. One afternoon while attending school she felt ill, and after receiving a test at her community health center she was diagnosed with meningitis.

There are thousands who share Rahinatou’s experience. The Republic of Niger is a West African country situated in what’s known as the meningitis belt, a region in sub-Saharan Africa that spans 26 countries with high rates of meningitis. Seasonal outbreaks of bacterial meningitis cause a high burden of disease and mortality in Niger. The region has experienced several outbreaks over the last decade.

In 2013, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided the CDC Foundation a grant to establish MenAfriNet, an international consortium that is led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and includes key collaborators like the World Health Organization, the Gavi Alliance and ministries of health to strengthen meningitis surveillance in Africa. The international consortium supports African countries in the collection and management of quality meningitis data and strengthening of disease surveillance and laboratory testing capacities.

Their work has led to several successful public health outcomes including meningitis case-based surveillance in several districts across five countries and the formation of a consortium of international partners and ministries of health committed to fighting meningitis in the region. Increased disease surveillance also provided a foundation for needed support in improving capacity for in-country laboratory testing to confirm suspected meningitis cases.

Read more about Rahinatou and the life-saving work of the MenAfriNet Consortium on CDC’s site.

Candace Wheeler is a communications officer for the CDC Foundation.