Established in 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) whose priority is public health. It contributes to promoting the general health across the world.
With the major objective of building better future for people everywhere in areas of health which lays the foundation for vibrant and productive communities, WHO is engaged in tackling health crisis in Nigeria, particularly in the North East where millions are affected by the insurgency.
Cholera is one of the health challenges being tackled by WHO in the North east which is prone to epidemics in view of the current challenges. So far, no fewer than 377, 000 people benefitted from the first ever cholera vaccination campaign in Adamawa facilitated by WHO.
Of recent, the frontline states of North east comprising Adamawa, Borno and Yobe recovering from the insurgency crisis have cause to battle cholera epidemic that prompted WHO and other partners responses in containing the fatality of the epidemic.
In Adamawa, particularly in Mubi area, the timely intervention of WHO coordinated response to the outbreak of cholera in May this year when health workers were on strike, was the stitch in time that really saves nine by bringing the fatality ratio of the epidemic from 17 per cent to 2.2 per cent.
WHO engaged 39 health workers on ad hoc arrangement to support the immediate response to the outbreak pending when the strike was called off.
The organization also engaged 107 Community Health Champions (CHC) for house-to-house case search, risk communication, aqua tab distribution and referral of suspected cases for treatment. Mobile health teams were also deployed to conduct household disinfection of suspected cholera cases.
The WHO’s Mid-Year Report for 2018 indicated that health workers were also engaged by the organization to geo-coordinate mapping which enabled focused intervention including disinfecting localized neigbourhoods in Mubi.
To further stem the outbreak which affected Mubi North, Mubi South, Maiha and Hong local government areas of Adamawa, WHO not only activated an Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) to enable partners coordination for rapid decision making, it provided technical supervision for the chlorination of water sources mainly responsible for the outbreak.
In Borno where the epidemic was recorded in Kukawa local government area in January, WHO deployed its mobile health team that helped in early detection for prompt intervention which led to detection of 679 cases. Kukawa outbreak was restricted to within the vicinity of the town.
In Yobe, the outbreak was recorded in March in Gashua town of Bade local government where the WHO trained Rapid Response Team swiftly responded. The State Ministry of Health in collaboration with WHO coordinated partners contained the outbreak which affected 404 people. Yobe officially declared the outbreak over in June following the concerted response coordinated by WHO.
Appreciating the interventions from WHO and other partners in containing the cholera outbreak in Adamawa, the State Commissioner of Health, Dr Fatima Atiku who noted the deadly nature of the epidemic said the collaborative effort was commendable.
She appreciated the benefit of collaborating with WHO in enhancing the health sector capacity in handling outbreaks and control of health challenges.
Atiku noted the engagement of volunteers and town announcers for effective community sensitization and health education on cholera prevention, engagement of disease surveillance and notification officers for active case and surveillance as well as setting up of active toll free lines for prompt feedback from general public on any observed symptoms related to cholera and other public health as some of the many measures supported by WHO in containing the cholera epidemic.
“As a result of this collaborative efforts the case fatality ratio of the outbreak which was 17 percent as at 12 May 2018 was drastically reduced to 1.8 per cent as at 1st June 2018.
“We sincerely appreciate the efforts of our development partners, volunteers and health workers who dedicated their lives to save others affected by the outbreak, “ Atiku said.
Also commending WHO and other collaborative partners for their interventions, the Director of Public Health in the Adamawa ministry of health who is also the Head of Emergency Operation Centre, Dr Bwalki Dilli urged the public to strictly observe cholera preventive and control measures like clean water and hygienically prepared food intake, hygiene promotion, hand washing with soap and water after defecation and before eating as a lasting solution.
“Media are also encouraged to support broadcast of messages and programmes aimed at promoting health education,” Dilli said.
Mr Wondimagegnehu Alemu, the WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, in his message contained in the organization’s mid-year report of 2018 noted that the humanitarian crisis in the North east caused by Boko Haram insurgency has continued to make the population vulnerable to outbreaks, but assured that WHO would continue to do its best in line with its vision of healthcare to all despite the challenges.
“Although, funds received for planned activities in the first half of 2018 were scarcely enough, WHO continues to appreciate the government of Nigeria, ECHO, USAID, CERF, OFDA, CIDA, governments of Japan, Germany and Republic of Korea among others, who have remained steadfast with funding WHO’s emergency operations in Nigeria.
“In the second half of 2018, WHO plans to scale up humanitarian interventions despite unnerving pragmatic and security challenges.
“It is therefore, crucial, that donors and partners continue to support WHO to enable comprehensive delivery of lifesaving interventions to populations in need,” Alemu said.
Indeed, being at the Centre of steady improvement in public health, WHO really deserves all the support it can get to continue the humanitarian work in the North east and beyond, where millions are still in timely and dear need of healthcare as they struggle to pick up their lives once again.
“WHO’s work is about serving people; about serving humanity. It’s about serving people regardless of where they live; be it in developing or developed countries, small islands or big nations, urban or rural settings,” said the Director General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus while stressing the unique role of the organization in impacting positively in public health.
– Musa is a journalist covering health issues in North east.
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