MONDAY EDITORIAL

Government must live up to its responsibility by providing clean water for the people

No fewer than 17 persons were last week confirmed dead from an outbreak of cholera in Kwara State. But it is not an isolated incident as the World Health Organisation (WHO) says Nigeria has the highest burden of the water-borne disease in Africa. “Cholera is life- threatening. If you get contaminated with cholera bacteria and you do not receive appropriate treatment within 24 – 48 hours, you can pass on. Dysentery can give you some time to take care of yourself but not cholera,” said the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) specialist, Mr Drissa Yeo.

 Against the background that cholera, which often leads to the infection of the small intestine, is mostly contracted through drinking of contaminated water and eating of waste products, it is a shame that Nigerians are still afflicted by such a disease in this day and age. But with the systemic collapse of critical institutions and basic health facilities in many of the states across the country today, it is little surprise that many of our nationals are still dying of the preventable disease common among the poor that has been eliminated in most countries.

 

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that has been monitoring the cholera situation through the technical working group (TWG) in collaboration with key agencies and partners, as at 18th July, a total of 16,892 cases were reported in 17 states cutting across all geo-political zones in the country with 201 deaths. In the three-conflict affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in the Northeast, many suffer the affliction because of the state of hygiene, especially in the internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps where 20 per cent of the population have access to less than eight litres of water per person per day.  Statistics from UNICEF are more damning as 26 per cent of the IDP camps have no latrine coverage while13 per cent have a ratio of more than 100 people per latrine.

It is very sad that for more than four decades, a preventable disease like cholera has been a recurring epidemic in Nigeria and has led to the death of thousands of our people, especially children. While there have been some efforts by the federal government to deal with the challenge, we have not seen a corresponding commitment from the state governments yet that is where cholera appears to be ravaging citizens the most.

 

The spread of cholera becomes worse when the environment is not clean; when water system is not treated and when sanitation is not taken seriously. The sad part of it is that in many of our states, the villagers and rural dwellers are left to rely on streams as the only source of drinking water and there are no provisions for disposing waste. In most cases also, the people even have to rely on stagnant water for washing their clothes and other items. Therefore, since cholera is more prevalent in rural areas, the problem becomes more compounded when and where there are no modern medical facilities to assist in the treatment of the disease.

To the extent that the world has moved ahead of the era where cholera kills citizens, Nigerian leaders at all levels and healthcare officials must sit up to do the needful. It is a shame that a disease like cholera is still ravaging our people. While we commend the leadership of the NCDC for their proactive stance on curative measures, the authorities in the states must therefore do more in providing adequate clean water for the citizens, especially for those that are in the rural areas.