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Ending the cholera scourge

The Kano State Government recently said it has recorded 400 suspected cases of acute watery diarrhoea with 50 confirmed cases of cholera across the 33 local government areas of the state in the last seven months.

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The Commissioner for Health, Dr Kabiru Getso who disclosed this while briefing newsmen in Kano confirmed that 28 deaths were recorded. According to him, out of 50 confirmed cases, 28 deaths were recorded within the period under review.  Sadly, this is the newest episode in the grim series of cholera outbreaks across Nigeria in the past twelve months. 

Cholera is endemic to Nigeria and outbreaks peak tend to occur between the months of April and September. In the current episode 12 states in the country have reported cholera outbreaks. According to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as of June 2018 we are witnessing an almost 200% increase in reported cases compared to 2017 that had only seven states reporting outbreaks in that year. 

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It is disheartening that despite the fact that cholera has become an annual occurrence in Nigeria, we are still clutching at the straws and losing so many people to the disease. It is indeed worrisome that despite the simplicity of the cure, hundreds and sometimes thousands of people in Nigeria die every year from this ailment.

Reeling out the data becomes really depressing on account of the fact that cholera is endemic and seasonal in this country – thus there is a tone of predictability. The grim statistics we churn out is symptomatic of failed proactive measures by governments at all levels. Until we begin to be ashamed of reeling out such figures and find a way to factor developmental strides regarding avoidable deaths due to vaccine preventable diseases all our claim to development and progress are mere cosmetic. Government at all levels are quick to showcase roads, hospitals, schools etc. as dividends of democracy, good as these laudable achievements are, we suggest that these achievements becomes immaterial when they do not lead to significant reduction or total eradication of a vaccine preventable ailments.

Cholera has locked roots in social inequity, economic failure and infrastructural decay.

Access to clean water is a basic human necessity. Governments at all levels should endeavour to provide potable water for the people.  To forestall the reoccurrence of cholera outbreaks and other related epidemics sanitation must take a whole new dimension. In matters of the environment, everyone has a role to play. 

It is imperative to create awareness on water use, hand washing, personal hygiene, waste disposal and attitudinal change to open defecation. 

In addition, advocacy campaigns should not be left till an outbreak occurs, it should be part of the responsibilities of the Ministries of Environment and Health in state levels to organize awareness campaigns on public health issues and its preventions. Adequate funding must be provided for public health interventions and environment health officers must enforce environmental laws.

Furthermore, the government should always ensure the availability of necessary drugs at all primary health care units and hospitals in urban and rural areas so that citizens do not have to travel far distances for medication.

The control of this outbreak depends on not only government but also on other key stakeholders such as the civil society groups, media and community based organisations, among others. 

Lastly, the perception that government has to do everything for its citizens needs to be quickly stamp out, the environment is our common wealth, everyone is a stakeholder. We are all saddled with responsibilities of protecting our environment; our commitment to these responsibilities is for our own common good.

 


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