Government must stem unnecessary deaths by providing potable water for the people

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, last week confirmed an outbreak of cholera in a section of the state with six fatalities while 39 other persons were under observation and receiving treatment. According to Idris, “the main suspected source of infection is the salad called Abacha, a staple food that is consumed regularly in the area.” Samples of the local salad and the well water they consumed in the area, he said, “revealed the presence of vibrio cholera, Salmonella species and E coli in Abacha and the water sample taken from one of the two wells in the area.”

While we commend the Lagos State Government for its prompt action on this matter, we are nonetheless worried that cholera remains a recurring incident in Nigeria. In most instances, cholera has led to the death of thousands of our people, especially children. Yet the disease, which can lead to the infection of the small intestine, is mostly contracted through drinking of contaminated water and eating of waste products as was evident from the Lagos incident.

Given its root causes, one would have thought that government across all levels would have worked to stem the tide of the disease. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In states like Lagos, Ebonyi, Kano, Nasarawa and Bauchi, in recent years, cholera seems to have defied all preventive measures.

But the first crisis concerning the spread of the disease begins with failure by most state governments to provide potable water for their teeming population.

Therefore, in addressing the issue, state governments must be held accountable first for such failure. In fact, chances are that the annual security votes for governors in most of the states astronomically surpass budgetary allocations to the provision of clean water for the people. With that sort of systemic collapse in the states, it is little surprise that the country is made to spend more on the treatment of cholera rather than on its prevention. In most of these cases, many states have abdicated their responsibilities while huge resources that should be deployed for the welfare of the people are now used to service former governors in the name of a corruption-ridden pension and gratuities package.

The spread of cholera becomes worse when the environment is not clean; when water system is not treated. The sad part of it is when villagers and rural dwellers are left to rely on streams or wells as the only sources of drinking water. Sometimes, in many rural communities, they rely on stagnant water for washing of their clothes and other items. It becomes more complicated when and where there are no modern medical facilities to assist in the treatment of cholera.

States must therefore do more in providing adequate clean water for the citizens, mostly in the rural areas. Considering the enormous funding they receive from international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for the provision of water, it is worrisome that there is complete lack of accountability in that respect. There is need to do more in ensuring that there is transparency.

The federal government also has to streamline modalities that will train medical staff across the country that can handle the outbreak of cholera. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources also has to expedite action in the provision of water across the states. There should be a synergy between the federal government and the states that is geared towards prevention and treatment of cholera. The world has moved ahead of the era where cholera kills citizens. Nigerian leaders at all levels and healthcare officials should sit up and do the needful. Let’s stop cholera now!