Tasks govt on persistent campaign
“Let’s introduce Sanitary Inspectors”- activist
By Ebunoluwa Sessou & Oreoluwa Somuyiwa
It is no longer news that Lassa fever as an epidemic has taken many lives since the new episode broke last month. The virus is contracted through rats, when in contact with contaminated food or close contact with infected persons or rats.
The spread of the Lassa fever virus is becoming more imminent as people contract it daily and lives are lost in the process of ignorance as well as treatment.
As of January 29, the disease has claimed over 41 lives in various parts of Nigeria. Children are also prone to contracting the virus, thus parents- mothers especially- have a lot of work to do in preventing their wards from contracting the virus.
Speaking with parents in the Badagry area of Lagos, WW gathered that the how-to of ensuring the safety of their families especially the children is an issue on the top of their mind.
Mrs. Lawunmi Idowu, a businesswoman and a mother of four told WW that she will make sure that her environment is clean always and watch what her children consume daily.
“Every parent should know that Lassa fever is real and deadly, therefore we must all know that adequate cleanliness and sanitation is important. We must know that is a dangerous animal and ensure that we fight and conquer rats in our communities.
“People must remember that no food is an exception when it comes to Lassa fever. Rats are everywhere and they have access to all the foods in the community, homes and the entire environment. Nowhere is exempted.
“As a mother, I make sure my children’s hands are washed all the time. I also make sure they take their baths regularly to be clean always. I prepare their meals, making sure it is healthy to consume compared to roadside food and snacks. I also try to make their environment clean to stay, including the home and their school.
“I practice it daily, so it is a part of me especially for my children. I make use of antiseptics and insecticides with rodent killers at home and I take care of the home generally.
Another parent, Mrs. Bimbo Kolawole who is an entrepreneur and a mother of three, said she takes it as a daily practice to prevent herself from contracting the virus.
“I ensure my children wash their hands with soap and water always, especially with antiseptics. They also make use of hand sanitizers”
According to Mrs. Christiana Ajose, She has been able to stay out of the virus through consciousness and carefulness. Also, the protection of her children away from the disease is to first make sure the house is free of rodents.
According to Mrs. Toyosi Olorunwunmi, a makeup artist and a mother of one, every child must wash his or her hands all the time to avoid contact with dirt.
A visit to some of the schools in the area revealed that school owners are not left out of these issues.
A school headmistress of Je nissi primary school, Mrs. Tola Oyenusi, said adequate measures including sanitizing and cleanups should be taken seriously to protect the pupils against the virus.
According to the Principal of Lolly Prudence secondary school, “We teach our students about how to fully protect themselves from the virus, we ensure a clean environment and we also make sure food sold out are prepared with clean water and in a clean environment. So, we are sure our students are safe to a large extent”
A human rights advocate on education Mr. Sunday Omolu, Chairman, Olise Omolu Foundation, said, “It is a sad commentary that even though we have been under the scourge of Lassa fever in the recent past, nothing was put in place to ensure that there will be no re-occurrence or that if it reoccurs the effect will not be as devastating like the previous one. We never learn from our past bitter experiences.
“We would have kept Lassa fever at bay if we had taken steps, after our previous experience, to put in place measures that would have made it impossible for LASSA fever to rear its ugly head again. We did not.
ROBUST AND PERMANENT MEASURES TO AVERT EPIDEMICS
“Our state and local government officials should have embarked on consistent campaigns on the importance of a clean environment as dirty environments create room for rodents to thrive and give oxygen to diseases like Lassa fever.
“This ‘fire brigade’ approach being put in place in the 19 States where the outbreak of the disease has been reported cannot provide a lasting solution. Once the health officials in the different States where the epidemic has sprouted now are able to put it under control, we will all go to sleep as usual without putting thoughts together on how to avert another upsurge of the epidemic. That is our bane. We do not prepare for catastrophes.
“We believe that tomorrow will take of itself. Let us re-introduce the Sanitary Inspectors that go round our neighbourhoods ensuring that we keep our environment clean and tidy all the time and every time. Let’s enforce the rules of environmental sanitation to the letter and sanction erring households.
“We as citizens must respect the rules of good sanitation. Let’s stop blocking the drainages. In Malaysia, where the rules of hygiene are religiously observed, people do not spit on the streets not to talk of defecating in the public.
NOURISHMENT FOR THE CHILDREN
“To protect our children in the schools (and members of the community) against Lassa fever and other diseases, government must take all precautionary measures to ensure that epidemics are kept at bay; especially those areas that are apparently endemic to the epidemics must always be under scrutiny by health officials to enable them to nip in the bud any outbreak.
“The children must be inoculated as and when due against epidemics. What is more, given the poverty level in our different homes, many children are malnourished and thus very prone to epidemics like Lassa fever. The Federal Government and some State Governments have been talking about school feeding. If the government is ready to walk the talk, we enjoin the government to ensure that the meals they serve these children are nourishing
THE HAND WASHING CAMPAIGN
“The handwashing campaign must be sustained. Children must be encouraged to wash their hands with soap before eating their meals. They must also wash their hands with soap each time they make use of the convenience. Ensure that medical facilities by way of standard First Aid Boxes are made available. Free medical care for our children is a necessity. Provision for the well being of disabled children must not be neglected.
“I read an SOS in the Vanguard newspaper some time ago of Lady Atinuke Memorial Home, Badagry, for mentally and physically challenged children where a sick child died because the Home could not at that point in time afford N1,500.00 for medical expenses. This is in a country awash with oil money.
“Our governments should, as a matter of responsibility, provide for the disabled in our midst. It is not their fault that they are in the state they find themselves. Let our different governments make provisions in their budgets for these our compatriots. After all, to be physically challenged is not a death sentence as our sons and daughters that compete in the Olympics have proved”, he said.