Leading experts from around the world have come together at the African Rotavirus Symposium with a shared mission to combat the devastating impact of rotavirus on children’s health. This symposium aims to address the pressing challenges of child health and bring together eminent minds in the field to exchange knowledge and strategies for a brighter, healthier future.
Speaking at the event in Abuja, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammed Pate highlighted that rotavirus is a leading cause of severe diarrhoea in children, resulting in numerous hospitalizations, misuse of antimicrobials and tragic loss of lives.
The 14th African Rotavirus Symposium, held under the theme “Rotavirus Disease Control in Africa: Vaccination and Surveillance as the Foundation of an Integrated Approach,” was organised by AfrRN and co-hosted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH).
The event was also supported by partners such as the Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN), Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN), National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), among others.
Pate emphasised that with most infections occurring before the age of two, diarrhoeal disease ranks among the top causes of death in children worldwide, with rotavirus being the most common culprit. He pointed out that nearly a quarter of a million children under the age of five succumb to rotavirus annually, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for half of the global deaths.
“On average, rotavirus claims the lives of over 330 African children every day, placing a significant burden on families and healthcare systems. However, there is hope,” he stated.
Pate mentioned that since 2009, African countries, starting with South Africa, have introduced rotavirus vaccination into their routine immunization schedules. These vaccines have proven to be safe, offering broad protection, reducing hospitalizations, and proving cost-effective.
The symposium provides a unique platform for exchanging ideas, sharing experiences, and enhancing knowledge about rotavirus prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. The goal is to drive innovation and progress in the fight against this disease, Pate explained. He encouraged participants to actively engage in the symposium, explore the latest research, share best practices, and foster collaborations.
The director-general of NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa emphasised the critical importance of the symposium as an event that has the potential to drive innovation, collaboration, and progress in healthcare. He stated that the symposium provides a unique platform for the continent to come together, share experiences, and learn from one another.
Adetifa urged participants to participate in robust discussions on the latest advancements in rotavirus prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, highlighting the invaluable expertise and insights that would shape the future of healthcare in Africa. He stressed the potential for significant strides in combating rotavirus and improving the health outcomes of children through collaboration and knowledge sharing.
Recalling that in Africa, rotavirus is the most common severe diarrheal disease, responsible for over 450,000 deaths each year in children under five and millions of hospitalisations and clinic visits, the African Rotavirus Network (AfrRN) was established in 1998 to address the burden of the disease on the continent. The AfrRN comprises members of the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional office for Africa (WHO/AFRO), ministries of health and other partners. The network’s mission includes determining the diversity of circulating rotavirus strains, understanding the burden of rotavirus disease, and raising awareness of this illness in Africa.
Since the inaugural African Rotavirus Symposium in South Africa in 2000, subsequent symposia have been organised in various African nations.