About 50 million young people across seven African countries will over the next three months receive crucial vaccinations for meningitis, public-private global health body GAVI Alliance announced October 4, 2012.

The countries are Ghana, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan .

This area of sub-Saharan Africa, according to GAVI, is vulnerable to severe outbreaks of meningitis, which occur every 7-14 years.

?Up to 430 million people are at risk from the illness which can kill the most severely affected patients within 48 hours and causes brain damage, hearing loss or learning difficulties in 20% of sufferers,? it added.

The most recent major outbreak of the illness, in 1996, saw 250,000 people contract meningitis, of which 25,000 died.

The vaccination is under the project ?MenAfriVac? developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and PATH, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

GAVI will start the vaccination across the seven countries between October and December this year.

In a statement, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, Dr Seth Berkley said ?Meningitis takes a terrible toll on the people living in vulnerable parts of Africa every year. It is a painful disease which can kill quickly and often leaves victims with disabilities that will blight their lives.?

By Ekow Quandzie

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