There is need to improve on personal hygiene

For more than four decades, cholera has not only been a recurring disease in Nigeria but has also led to the death of thousands of people, especially children. Mostly contracted through drinking of contaminated water and eating of waste products, cholera often leads to the infection of the small intestine. But it is a big shame that Nigerians are still afflicted by such a disease in the age that we are in. While there have been some efforts by the federal government to deal with the challenge, we have not seen a corresponding commitment from many of the states.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), no fewer  than 1,141 suspected cholera cases had been recorded across 30 states with 30 deaths this year. The 10 states that have recorded 90 per cent of the cases include Bayelsa, Lagos, Abia, Cross River, Delta, Imo. Katsina, Nasarawa and Zamfara. In the case of Lagos, the Ministry of Health last weekend confirmed 15 fatalities from cholera sub-type O-1, associated with more severe disease, according to the Director of Public Affairs, Tunbosun Ogunbanwo, who also disclosed that the pattern of new cases per day varies across local government areas.

Fortunately, with effective coordination, the disease can be contained quickly. But the real challenge is to work towards its total eradication from Nigeria as it has been done in many other countries. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), no human should die from preventable diseases like cholera. To address this challenge, there is an urgent need for public enlightenment on healthy living. Experts have advised that people should ensure their food (cooked or uncooked) is properly covered while regular handwashing should be adhered to always. More surveillance, more resourcing and better coordination will be necessary to reduce deaths from cholera and other preventable diseases.

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. 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 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 rely on stagnant water for washing their clothes and other items.

Beyond what government should do, Nigerians should not neglect the issue of personal hygiene. That cholera kills when a person loses too much body fluids means such deaths are preventable if victims are quickly rehydrated. Since no vaccine has been developed against cholera, what is commonly used is oral rehydration salts (ORS) as part of measures to mitigate the problem. But prevention is still very much better than cure. To that extent, our rural dwellers and the urban poor should be taught the rules of basic hygiene.  

 That we are still witnessing serial outbreaks of cholera in Nigeria is a serious indictment on our healthcare delivery. The world has moved ahead of the era where cholera kills citizens. Healthcare officials and other critical stakeholders must therefore do more in providing adequate clean water for the citizens, especially for those that are in the rural areas. We must work towards banishing cholera from our country.

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