This year’s meningitis outbreak in northern Nigeria has already led to the deaths of more than 1,500 people. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), in cooperation with the Nigerian Ministry of Health, is carrying out a mass vaccination campaign as well as undertaking the very important task of treating patients who are suffering from the disease. In a hospital bed in the scorching heat of the Nigerian dry season, where temperatures can reach high into the 40s, Ismael lies still. He is eight years old and has just been brought to the Musawa General Hospital, in the north of Nigeria in Katsina State, by his father. He awoke at home in the middle of the night complaining of a headache and a stiff neck, two of the classic symptoms of meningitis. As he made it to the hospital so quickly, Ismael is well on his way to recovery, the appropriate antibiotics being quickly administered. A small, five-month-old baby just two beds away has not been so lucky. He is breathing furiously, his tiny chest heaving, his father trying to comfort him. The baby is having a seizure and the doctors predict he is unlikely to live through it. “You can tell when you approach a health facility which child has meningitis because of their position. They don’t even want to move. Their eyes are covered because the light hurts, they are breathing quickly because they have a fever or they are in pain,” says Susan Umstat, an MSF nurse who has been working in Zamfara State since the beginning of the emergency, “It is a really, really awful disease. I had no idea that I would ever see it in such magnitude.” Such is the impact of meningitis. It has been taking its toll on the north of Nigeria since January when the first cases were reported. Nigeria sits within what is commonly known as the

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