TACKLING THE CHOLERA SCOURGE

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 FRIDAY EDITORIAL

There is need to raise awareness on sanitation and personal hygiene

Barely three months after the state suffered an outbreak of the disease, cholera has made another comeback in Yobe, claiming no fewer than 61 lives. But the outbreak of cholera is not restricted to Yobe. Since the onset of the rainy season, several rural communities across the country have also had to contend with the scourge with fatalities now going into thousands. Yet, the mere fact that scores of precious lives are lost annually to cholera speaks to our failure to overcome conditions that less-endowed nations have long terminated from their midst.

 What is more disturbing is that Nigeria, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 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 International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) specialist, Mr Drissa Yeo. 

It is indeed very sad that for more than four decades, a preventable disease likecholera 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. In many of our states, 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.

Goal Six of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is on ensuring water and sanitation for all by 2030. This means that 12 years from now, every person in Nigeria and other countries in the world should have access to safe drinking water and safe sanitation. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources recently signed a document called Partnership for Expanded Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH), which aims at meeting the SDGs under Goal Six on schedule. But having a plan is one thing, bringing in the resources and mustering the commitment towards its fulfilment is something else.

It is indeed shameful that Nigerians are still afflicted with cholera, mostly contracted through drinking of contaminated water and eating of waste products. 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 but has been eliminated in most countries.

 One of the factors that has worsened the outbreak of cholera in the country is open defecation which pollutes safe drinking water sources. That Nigeria has one of the worst global records of open defecation is disturbing, and must be tackled with utmost urgency in the nation’s bid to check the perennial cholera epidemics in communities. There is therefore an urgent need to raise awareness on sanitation and personal hygiene.