As part of measures to curb the spread of cholera outbreak in Nigeria, the federal government has flagged off a nationwide national environmental sanitation response programme in the country. HELEN OJI reports
Nigeria is currently experiencing cholera outbreak in several parts of the country with reported cases of fatalities. Latest situation report from Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) released on 17TH August, 2021 indicated a total number of 37,498 suspected cases including 1,149 deaths in 24 states and FCT (Benue, Delta, Zamfara, Gombe, Bayelsa, Kogi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Kebbi, Cross River, Niger, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Yobe, Kwara, Enugu, Borno, Kastina, Adamawa, Taraba and FCT, Abuja) with increasing number of new cases in, Zamfara, Bauchi, Kano, Gombe, Plateau, Niger, and Abuja FCT.
It is against this background the programme was organised to flag off response activities to the increasing rate of spread of Cholera cases across the country with the aim to sensitize the general public on cholera preventive and control measures to avert further outbreaks and strengthen collaboration with NCDC and other stakeholders in tackling the cholera scourge.
Cholera which is a sanitation and hygiene enabled disease is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of unwholesome food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholera due to poor personal hygiene, unsafe environmental sanitation conditions compounded by lack of potable water supply.
The former Minster of Environment, Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, who was represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Abel Enitan, said it is a global threat to public health and affects both children and adults and can kill if untreated. It is an extremely virulent disease that takes between 12 hours and 5 days for symptoms to manifest. The symptoms are watery diarrhoea, dehydration, pain in abdomen, nausea, vomiting e.t.c. Cholera outbreak is a seasonal public health event in Nigeria, occurring annually mostly during the rainy season and more often in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene practices.
He stated further that the country continues to suffer from cholera epidemic, other sanitation and hygiene enabled diseases every year. “This is largely due to our collective behaviour and attitude towards environmental sanitation and hygiene practices which are very poor.
“This year’s outbreak is very serious and has continued to ravage many states with more fatalities being reported on a daily basis.
Dr. Abubakar added that the Federal Ministry of Environment immediately activated the Sanitation Desks in the 36 State Ministries of Environment and FCT urging them to carry out environmental sanitation activities in their various states aimed at containing the outbreak.
He note that Environmental Health Officers in the states and local governments across the country have intensified their efforts in carrying out sanitary inspection of premises and abatement of nuisances that could result to diseases outbreak such as cholera, Lassa fever.
Environmental Health Officer’s (EHO’s) in the states and local government areas has commenced the nationwide intervention response activities covering the following areas, Sanitary inspection of premises/Environmental Health Surveillance of hotspot communities, Treatment of contaminated water sources/sites, Strengthening capacity of Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) in the State Ministries of Environment and the affected LGAs, Sanitary inspection of food business premises of affected communities, Advocacy, Sensitization and Community Town Hall meetings on control of Open Defecation practices and its health impact, Sanitary inspection of Schools (Primary & Secondary) in affected communities, Training of community volunteers on safe water handling, environmental sanitation and hygiene practices, Working with the State and Local Governments to ensure enforcement of relevant Environmental Sanitation Laws, Standards, Regulations and Guidelines in all the communities.
“Citizens are also advised to imbibe good sanitation and hygiene practices and take preventive and control measures such as, Keeping the environment clean;
Ensuring the use of clean and safe water; Washing hands regularly with soap and running water especially at critical moments such as after using the toilet, after coughing or sneezing; after cleaning a child who has gone to the toilet; after touching books and money; before preparing food; before (and after eating); and after playing with animals. Avoiding open defecation; Cooking food well, keeping it covered and eating it hot; Disposing wastes regularly and at designated collection centres.
The ministry has commence the construction of a modern toilet with borehole and solar powered pump in the community before the end of the year as part of its efforts to Eradicate open defecation and contain the Cholera outbreak.
Also Speaking, the National Environmental Sanitation Response to Cholera in Nigeria, the WASH Manager of UNICEF, Michael Forson, said within the last two months there have been, on the average, 6,500 reported cases per week; and of the reported cases, 49 are women and 26 children between five and 14 years and 15 per cent under five years.
Even at the level of infection, he regretted that over 46 million Nigerians still defecate in the open.
“It is very common to see people defecating along the expressway and by waterslides in Abuja. Also, most transport hubs and markets in Abuja, not to talk about the other states, have no toilets or place of convenience. In cases where there are, they are poorly managed and the hygiene situation is nothing to write home about.
“Schools and health centres equally suffer from lack or inadequate toilet, safe water and hygiene facilities” he lamented.
To this end, UNICEF, said it is providing water chlorination for 1,799 patients, 2,735 houses and 20,765 schoolchildren with access to potable water.
Besides, it would train village hygiene volunteers and community WASHCOMs in the use of chlorine tables. Disinfection of water, he assured, is going on in the affected states.
The UNICEF representative said the agency had embarked on the construction of seven water supply facilities benefiting 5,500 people in Zamfara state while 41 facilities are under construction.
As the end of August NCDC as reported over 58,000 suspected cases of cholera