Despite the best efforts of partners to enhance the sanitary conditions of camps and ensure the adoption of best hygiene practices, cholera has emerged as a major health risk with health partners flagging more than 3,140 confirmed and/or suspected cases and at least 53 cholera-related deaths. Water insecurity and unsanitary conditions could exponentially increase the scale of the epidemic. The identified hotspots are Maiduguri, Dikwa and Monguno. According to a release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA), humanitarian partners are currently working with the Nigerian government to contain the outbreak. In all the identified hotspots, special treatment facilities are being established. So far, about 330 beds are available to urgently cater for the worst afflicted men, women and children.
Oral rehydration sites are being set up where health workers can quickly administer oral rehydration salts to those who are infected but not yet severely ill. Where necessary, suspected cases will be kept for 24 to 48 hours at these sites for monitoring before discharge. Cholera can be prevented by an organized vaccination campaign. The Federal Ministry of Health, with the support of humanitarian agencies, will initiate a campaign in the hardest-hit areas this month. Clinics are running short of oral rehydration salts, antibiotics and nutritional supplements to support patients’ immune systems which can also be used to treat Cholera and additional medical supplies need to be procured.crucial for the timely detection and referral of cholera case. Once a household has been identified as having a member with suspected cholera, the sick family member and anyone else showing symptoms are referred to a nearby treatment or re hydration centre. In addition, teams are deployed to spray shelters and homes with chlorine.
Promoting awareness of good hygiene practices among communities is key to preventing further transmission of the disease. Partners are using door-to-door visits, awareness raising campaigns by youth and women’s groups, schools, posters, skits, radio broadcasts among other methods to inform communities about how to avoid infection. Humanitarian groups have also set up hand-washing stations throughout sites that house internally displaced people in hotspot areas; as well as cleaning and disinfecting latrines; and training medical workers.
Much more needs to be done to contain the outbreak but aid groups’ capacity in this region is already stretched to the limit. According to UNOCHA, humanitarian agencies are currently being forced to divert resources from other life-saving programmes to rapidly respond to the cholera crisis. This outbreak could spread to other areas of the north-east, or even become long term, without urgent action. Additional funds are urgently required to prevent an escalation of the crisis. A Cholera Response and Prevention Plan has been developed to address the immediate needs of 3.7 million people that could be affected by the outbreak.