While Nigeria is battling with the resurgence of the Covid -19 pandemic, the Cholera epidemic is gradually ravaging some parts of the country.
Since the beginning of the year, 2021, 10,833 suspected cholera cases have been reported with 112 confirmed cases and 289 deaths in 2021. Last month, an increasing number of cholera cases have been reported across states. The most affected states are Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Zamfara, Bayelsa, and Kaduna.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, listed the states as Bauchi, 1, 239 cases; Kano, 362 cases; Niger, 62 cases; Zamfara, 55 cases; Kaduna, 59 cases and Plateau, nine cases.
This newspaper recalls that towards averting the risk of large outbreaks across states, NCDC activated a multi-sectoral National Cholera Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), following an increase in the cases.
Instructively, cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease caused by Vibrio cholerae bacteria. It is passed on from feces through contaminated food, drinks, and unhygienic environments, and causes severe dehydration. The number of cholera cases tends to increase with the onset of the rainy season. The risk of death from cholera is higher when treatment is delayed.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper the government must do everything possible to avoid a repeat of 2010. We recall that in that year, Nigeria had its worst cholera outbreak in recent years, with nearly 40,000 cases and more than 1,500 deaths reported according to a United Nations report on cholera. In 2014, Nigeria recorded 35,996 cases and in 2015, 2,108 cases was reported, with 97 deaths. Suffice it to say that cholera has become a recurring decimal in the country.
Regrettably, the Covid -19 pandemic has relegated most other diseases to the background.
Sadly, cholera is largely associated with rural communities and among poor people with poor nutrition, poor water quality, and poor sanitation hence it has not received the desired attention from the government.
Experts have advised that washing hands frequently with soap under clean running water can prevent infectious diseases including cholera. This is especially important after defecation and before handling food or eating.
Also avoiding open defecation and indiscriminate refuse dumping which contribute to the spread of cholera are essential, Improved access to clean water, proper sanitation, and hygiene are imperative, These are critical measures to prevent cholera cases and outbreaks.
Unfortunately, Nigeria is among the nations in the world with the highest number of people practicing open defecation, estimated at over 46 million people. The practice brings with it significant health risks, linked to deaths from diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid.
In 2016, Nigeria launched an action plan to end open defecation by 2025. The plan involves providing equitable access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services and strengthening tailored community approaches to total sanitation.
However, financial constraints have put the target in jeopardy. Nigeria needs an estimated N959 billion ($2.7 billion) to end open defecation by 2025. Of that amount the government is expected to provide about 25 per cent or N234 billion — justified because the country loses N455 billion annually to poor sanitation.
We also recall that based on World Bank estimates, Nigeria will be required to triple its budget or at least allocate 1.7 percent of the current Gross Domestic Product to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).
From the foregoing, we call on the federal and State Governments to step up efforts to provide equitable access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services. The government should also ensure the sustainability of water services in rural communities.
Similarly, the government should revive the campaign to end open defecation in the country. Also, we call on the government to step up surveillance to detect and monitor the spread of the disease in the country.
The government must break the cycle as Cholera keeps reoccurring every year. We also insist that hand-washing campaigns have to be reignited across the country. The way the government campaigned vigorously for the Covid-19 protocols, the same courtesy should be extended to the handwashing campaign across the country, especially in rural areas.
We must do everything possible to eliminate Cholera.