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Checking cholera epidemic in Borno

The cholera epidemic in some parts of Borno State calls for the collaboration of relevant health agencies to stop its spread to neighbouring states. Initially, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 319 suspected cholera cases and 20 deaths in the state. Later, the infected persons rose to 530 and 23 deaths. The probability of these scary figures escalating is high, unless the government steps up efforts to contain the water-borne disease.

In its update on the situation, the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said that the disease affected six areas in the state, especially the Muna Garage Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri. However, there are also reports of cases at Custom House, Ruwan Zafi and Bolori 11, Jere, Munguno and Dikwa areas. Ihekweazu also said that the NCDC is collaborating with sister health agencies and relevant global partners to curtail the spread of the disease.

Cholera, according to NCDC, is endemic in Nigeria,  occurring more during the rainy season, especially between April and September.  Experts define the illness as an acute infectious disease of humans and domestic animals, caused by the vibrio cholerae bacterium through ingestion of contaminated water or food. It is usually marked by severe gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, which lead to dehydration and weakness.

It is, therefore, imperative that all suspected cases of the highly contagious disease are promptly reported to health care facilities for immediate treatment. To avoid contracting cholera, all health professionals are enjoined to at all times take the universal care precautions while handling patients. Cholera often occurs when there is poor access to potable water and in places where environmental hygiene is compromised. The troubled North-East region and the numerous IDP camps are susceptible to cholera epidemics. Available statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that 40 million people are currently living in cholera-endemic areas in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

We commend the government’s efforts to contain this epidemic. Also commendable are the efforts of the collaborating global health agencies to help Nigeria overcome the epidemic. Government should ensure that the established cholera treatment centres in the affected areas are functioning at optimum level. If the centres created so far are not enough, we advise that more be established to confront the epidemic. It is also important to ensure that more people, especially in the affected areas, have access to clean water. This is, perhaps, the only way to maintain high level sanitation in the affected areas. Government should also embark on a cholera vaccination campaign in the state, especially in the high risk areas.

Nigerians should be enlightened on the disease. The people should be made to know the cause,   symptoms and ways to prevent the disease. The need for public hygiene should be emphasised the more. All the tiers of government must work hard to ensure that every nook and cranny of Nigeria is provided with potable water. Access to potable water is a right of all Nigerians. In fact, the provision of good water is one of the basic functions of government.

It is, indeed, a sad commentary that in this 21st century, majority of Nigerians, in both urban and rural areas, lack access to potable water. This situation must be redressed if we are to curb the recurring cholera epidemics in the country. Above all, all hands must be on deck to end this epidemic.

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