Soon after a cholera outbreak hit Bauchi state, killing no fewer than 20 people with about 322 persons infected, another outbreak killed six with 33 hospitalised in Plateau state.
While in Bauchi State, the outbreak occurred in nine districts including the capital city, in Plateau State, the disease swept across five local government areas.
There is also an outbreak in Gombe State that cost the lives of seven persons including a two-year-old child. Commissioner for Health, Habu Dahiru who confirmed the Gombe outbreak said the state recorded 32 cases.
We recall that in March this year, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) listed Benue, Delta, Zamfara, Gombe, Bayelsa, Kogi, Sokoto and Nasarawa states as areas that recorded outbreak of cholera cases in the first quarter of 2021.
According to NCDC, from these states, there ware 1,746-suspected cases including 50 deaths with more than half of confirmed cases being children between the ages of 5 and 14.
Essentially, cholera is a water-borne bacterial infection that affects the intestinal tract and often leads to vomiting, watery stool, dehydration and fatigue.
It is sad that Nigeria still suffers from a high rate of water-borne diseases because of dilapidated infrastructure and outright neglect of the water and hygiene sector.
Most rural communities in states across the nation lack clearly defined sources of water hence residents resort to using unclean water, which is responsible for the myriad of water-borne diseases.
Additionally too, sanitation and hygiene practices appear to be at the lowest ebb due, largely, to non-challant attitude of most Nigerians in the rural areas and urban slums. Even then, those willing to observe basic hygiene practices often times have to contend with lack of potable water.
Although there cannot be effective hygiene practices without potable water, most states have failed to accord the needed attention to water supply. In fact, states neglect water boards, which even at that, serve only the urban and in some few cases, semi-urban settlers. To fill this void, residents resort to indiscriminate sinking of boreholes.
Clearly, this under-investment in the water sector, in spite of its importance in providing water for both households, farming and industrial needs, is responsible for the recurring cases of water-borne diseases including cholera.
Sadly, these diseases have continued to constitute threats to child survival and development as children are often times the worst hit due to their fragile immune system.
It is disheartening to note that while most countries have technically eliminated cholera and other childhood killer diseases, Nigeria is still grappling with them. There is no reason why with all her enormous resources, Nigeria should still be struggling with cholera which can easily be eradicated.
More than anything else, the recurring incidence of cholera outbreak has underscored the need for concerted efforts to strengthen the water supply and sanitation services.
The statistics of water supply and sanitation in Nigeria are startling. As at 2019, approximately 60 million Nigerians were living without access to basic drinking water services, 80 million without access to improved sanitation facilities and 167 million without access to a basic hand washing facility.
In rural areas, 39 per cent of households lack access to at least basic water supply services, while only half have access to improved sanitation. As should be expected, a large percentage of the rural populace still practice open defecation.
Now, more than ever before, the nation needs a deliberate strategy to boost hygiene with government according topmost priority to the provision of safe water through sustained investment in the sector.
In our considered opinion, the recent approval of $700 million by the World Bank, to strengthen the Nigeria Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Programme is part of the measures needed to address the seeming neglect of the sector.
Stakeholders said the fund will provide six million people with basic drinking water services and 1.4 million people access to improved sanitation services with high prospects of delivering improved water sanitation and hygiene services to 2,000 schools and Health Care Facilities and, assist 500 Communities to achieve open defecation free status. We appeal that the fund should be judiciously utilised!
We admit the fact that there is an over-arching need for residents to keep a clean environment and maintain personal hygiene but government must rise up to the occasion by addressing the challenges connected with access to potable water supply.