Yet another cholera epidemic – Thisday

The authorities must do more to stem the scourge

Recent reports that Cholera has claimed the lives of no fewer than 2,035 Nigerians within two months is another sad reminder of the deplorable state of healthcare delivery in the country. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), affected states include Benue, Delta, Zamfara, Gombe, Bayelsa, Kogi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Niger, Jigawa, Yobe, Kwara, Adamawa, Katsina, Taraba and the FCT. With 58,698 suspected cases and a case fatality ratio (CFR) of 3.5 per cent in 305 local government areas in 23 states and Abuja, the authorities must intervene quickly before the situation gets out of hand.

It is sad that for more than four decades, cholera has been a recurring disease in Nigeria and has led to the death of thousands of our people, especially children. While there have been some efforts by the federal government to deal with the challenge, we have not seen a corresponding commitment from the state governments where cholera appears to be ravaging citizens the most. Since the first crisis concerning the spread of the disease begins with failure to provide potable water for their people, most of the governors should be held accountable for the spread of cholera.

Against the background that cholera, which often leads to the infection of the small intestine, is mostly contracted through drinking of contaminated water and eating of waste products, it is a shame that Nigerians are still afflicted by such a disease today. But with the systemic collapse of critical institutions and basic health facilities in many of the states, there is hardly any surprise that the country is made to spend more on the treatment of cholera rather than on its prevention. Indeed, in many of the reported cases, it is evident that some states have abdicated their responsibilities while huge resources that should be deployed for the welfare of the people are wasted on inanities.

The spread of cholera becomes worse when the environment is not clean; when water system is not treated and when sanitation is not taken seriously. The sad part of it is that in many of our states, the villagers and rural dwellers are left to rely on streams and untreated water from wells as sources of drinking water. In most cases the people have to rely on stagnant water for washing their clothes and other items. There are hardly provisions for disposing waste. Therefore, since cholera is more prevalent in rural areas, the problem becomes compounded when and where there are no modern medical facilities to assist in the treatment of the disease.

We agree with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) president, Innocent Ujah, that cholera is a disease associated with poverty which reflects the state of our nation. “If you map the country, you’ll find out that the places where there are outbreaks of cholera are underdeveloped areas where people fetch water from dirty places and drink,” said Ujah. “Also, because of open defecation during rainy seasons, all those faeces will then be washed down into the stream and people drink from some of these streams.”

It is a shame that in this day and age, a disease like cholera is still ravaging our people. Nigerian leaders at all levels and healthcare officials must sit up to do the needful. The authorities in the states must do more in providing adequate clean water for the citizens, especially for those that are in the rural areas.

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