The raging cholera epidemic in Nigeria has continued to claim victims after victims in communities in many states across the country. Consequently, many Nigerian families have, in the last few months, been through a roller coaster of emotions following the death of their loved ones who succumbed to the epidemic.
Cholera is a bacterial disease causing severe diarrhoea and dehydration. It is usually transmitted through infected water.
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the country has recorded 31,425 suspected cases of cholera between January 1st and August 1, 2021. Of this figure, 816 people have died of the disease in 22 states and FCT. The affected states are Benue, Delta, Zamfara, Gombe, Bayelsa, Kogi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Kebbi, Cross River, Niger, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Yobe, Kwara, Enugu, Adamawa, Katsina, Borno and FCT.
Although Nigeria has been identified as one of the African countries with a double disease burden – infectious and non-infectious diseases – many Nigerians focus mainly on COVID-19, with little or no attention given to the spread of cholera. Meanwhile, the rate and risk of transmission of the water-borne disease is as much as that of Coronavirus.
The most identified symptom of cholera, health experts argue, is diarrhoea.
COMMON CAUSES OF CHOLERA
According to health experts, residents living in environments where there is poor sanitation are prone to contracting cholera, hence, without proper Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH), citizens of the country would remain at risk of infection.
The Nigerian authorities on their part have urged citizens to drink safe water, avoid open defecation and ensure that their foods are cooked and stored in a clean environment.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has continued to advise citizens on the need to ensure that water is boiled and stored in a clean and safe container before drinking, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, if soap and clean water are not available, stop indiscriminate refuse dumping and ensure proper disposal of waste and frequent clearing of sewage.
While all of these admonitions are good, the question that bothers the minds of many Nigerians is how to get clean water in a country where citizens lack basic amenities.
Global data by the United States Centre for Disease Control in 2017 indicated that unsafe water sources, poor access to basic hand washing facilities and unsafe sanitation are linked to 1.5 million deaths across the world yearly.
The report also revealed that nearly 2.2 billion people are currently living without safely managed water outlets.
In another report, the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019 noted that 22 per cent of healthcare facilities in the least developed countries do not have basic water services.
Also, World Bank data show that about 75 per cent of people living in rural areas lack adequate facilities for hand washing.
Alas! Nigeria is one of the countries affected by all of the aforementioned realities due to lack of pipe-borne water and sanitation facilities, a development that is a major catastrophe militating against efforts at containing the epidemic.
WAY FORWARD: MEASURES TO COMBAT THE EPIDEMIC
To curb this menace, CDC in a statement on its website noted that if bottled water is not available, citizens should use water that has been properly boiled, chlorinated or filtered.
The Centre advised, “Boiling is the most effective way to make water safe. If boiling, bring your water to a complete boil for at least 1 minute. If boiling is not possible, you can use a chlorine product (i.e., granules or product tablets) to make your water safe. To treat your water with chlorine granules or tablets, use one of the locally available treatment products.
“If proper hand washing resources are not available, wash your hands using water that is as clean as possible (e.g. that’s not visibly cloudy) from a safe source (e.g., an improved source like a borehole or protected spring).”
For houses without toilet facilities, the centre advised that residents should “poop approximately 100 feet away from any body of water and then bury your poop. Dispose of plastic bags that contain poop by putting them in latrines or at collection points, if available.
“You can also bury them in the ground. Do not put plastic bags in chemical toilets. Dig new latrines or temporary pit toilets at least a half-meter (approximately 1 ½ feet) deep and at least 30 meters (approximately 100 feet) away from any body of water.”
Also, a health expert, Dr Safiya Sani, in checking the spread of the cholera epidemic the health authorities should focus more on the prevention stage, surveillance and early detection.
Sani added that for those who have already contracted the epidemic, the Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) solution should be taken promptly and regularly before going to the hospital for proper treatment.