By Chioma Obinna
Norwegian Refugee Council, NRC, has raised the alarm over the overcrowded displacement camps coupled with a lack of basic sanitation facilities and hygiene in the North East of the country, warning that the condition will cause another cholera outbreak if action is not taken now to prevent it.
It could be recalled that in 2018, 10,000 cases of cholera were recorded with more than 175 registered deaths.
Statistics from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, weekly epidemiological report for week 10 in the month of March 2019, between weeks 1 and 10, 2019, a total of 323 suspected cholera cases with four laboratory confirmed and 19 deaths from 14 LGAs in seven states were reported compared with 1,476 suspected cases and 33 deaths from 50 LGAs in 13 States during the same period in 2018.
In a statement, NRC’s Country Director for Nigeria, Eric Batonon warned: “If the camps are not decongested and sanitation facilities improved, cholera will inevitably return, and vulnerable displaced people will bear the brunt of the epidemic again.”
Over the last decade, northeast Nigeria has been affected by cholera on a yearly basis. Following a rise of violence in late 2018 forcing over 100,000 people to flee, displacement camps and sites are overcrowded. This has resulted in a deterioration of the living conditions and a lack of sanitation facilities. For instance, 466 people are sharing one latrine at one of the displacement camps in the state of Borno, according to the Humanitarian Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA.
This is nine times above the agreed humanitarian standards, which is set at 50 people per latrine in emergency situations. As a result of lack of sanitation, people choose to defecate in the open, exacerbating an already vulnerable situation and increasing the likelihood of the spread of disease.
Batonon said: “We are calling for Nigerian authorities to provide additional land to develop decongestion plans and to enable the construction of new water and sanitation facilities.
“At the same time, the international community should provide the necessary funding to respond quickly and efficiently so we can end the cycle of yearly cholera outbreaks in the region.”