Seven deaths recorded in four communities have heightened fears of cholera epidemic in most slums and satellite towns in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Seven people died in four communities: Kubwa, Sauka, Mpape and Ushafa and there were reported cases in Kwali and Kuje area councils.
The Director of Public Health in the Health and Human Services Secretariat of the FCTA, Dr. Humphrey Okoroukwu, who confirmed the deaths, said two deaths were recorded at Kubwa; one at Sauka and two each at Mpape and Ushafa.
Dr. Okoroukwu said there were 58 cases listed at Ushafa, comprising 36 women and 22 men.
Though he maintained that two deaths were recorded in Ushafa, the Secretary to the District Head of Ushafa, Danlami Bussa, said five residents died from the disease: three children and two adults.
Okoroukwu noted that the cases fitted into the definition of cholera, but that laboratory confirmation was being awaited.
The director, however, said a case of cholera had been established from the laboratory tests conducted on one of the patients.
“We are treating them as cholera so that we don’t take chances, and our disease surveillance officers in Bwari Area Council are on ground in Ushafa to curtail it.
While the FCTA has said it has curtailed the situation in Ushafa, there are concerns that the epidemic may still recur due the unhealthy lifestyle of residents.
Poor sanitation and inaccessibility to potable water in the affected communities best describe the situation in several communities in the FCT.
Despite being the nation’s capital, the FCT is yet to extend the development within the city to satellite towns where low income earners live.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), in its weekly epidemiological report released on its website, said between January and July, 11,295 suspected cholera cases with 320 laboratory confirmed cases and 163 deaths were recorded. These cases are from 111 local government areas in 22 states.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), in its weekly bulletin on outbreaks and other emergencies, released in July, made it clear that cholera was not new to Nigeria since the first recorded case in 1970.
WHO noted that, “The northern states have been most affected over the last 40 years, with multiple large cholera outbreaks with high case fatality ratios.
“Inadequate sanitary facilities, safe drinking water and personal hygiene practices in the affected communities are the risk factors driving the current outbreak.”
Therefore, WHO recommends early detection and treatment of cases, with emphasis on engaging communities, improving access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities.
There are several houses in Mpape and Ushafa and other rural areas that are without toilet facilities, thereby making residents to resort to open defecation.
An agency of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), said Nigeria was ranked among the top three countries in the world with people practising open defecation.
From a survey conducted in 2017, over 46 million people still practice open defecation in Nigeria, and 33 million of these people reside in rural areas. Also, 130 million people in the country use unapproved sanitary facilities and more than half of these people live in the rural areas and 45,000 children die annually from diseases caused by poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
A resident of Ushafa, Ahmed Muhammad, said his wife and two children were infected in the recent suspected cholera outbreak.
Muhammad said, “She had no strength to walk to the hospital. I had to carry her to the Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC). They gave her injection and seven drips, but the situation got worse. We were then referred to Bwari.
“I spent more than N45,000 on drugs and charges as she was admitted for more than seven days. As we were in the hospital, I was called that it had affected my children. I had no money, so my brother took them to the PHC in Ushafa.”
Another resident, Muhammad Gana, who was with Ahmed Muhammad in Bwari said he too was called that his wife was also infected.
Gana said his wife suffered the same fate but that she was lucky she spent just a few days on admission.
Gana noted: “Most people here do not have toilet. They defecate openly, and this is the rainy season, so you can imagine the harm it would cause.”
The District Head of Ushafa, Muhammadu Baba, said some people were without toilet facilities and that since the outbreak, he directed his council members to ensure residents kept the environment clean.
“On Saturday we embarked on a sanitation exercise. The entire residents came out and swept the environment and cleaned all their gutters,” he said.
He said he had been appealing to his subjects to ensure they got toilet facilities and desisted from open defecation.
The Head of Health Department, Bwari Area Council, Dr. Goji Sunday, said two people died in the community, “One person died at the clinic and one at home,”
He said the outbreak could not be confirmed as cholera until the result of the laboratory test was released.
He said though the residents drank potable water, they could still suffer from secondary contamination from open defecation, poor drainage and sanitary conditions.