By Wole Mosadomi & David Odama
WITH states looking helpless in containing the spread of cholera, the ailment has claimed no fewer than 159 persons in Niger and Nasarawa states in the past few months.
It is also threatening to kill more children, men and women as it ravages communities, especially those with poor water sources.
Niger State appears worst hit with over 100 deaths out of reported 400 cases between April and August this year. In Nasarawa, no fewer than 892 cholera cases have been reported with 59 casualties recorded as malnutrition is on the increase with hapless mothers calling for government to intervene in order to save their children.
But the Niger State Government, which had initially blamed the spread of the infection on ignorance on the part of the people, has run to mosques, churches and community leaders to assist it in passing the message of maintaining hygiene and drinking clean water to their adherents. Arewa Voice observed that the cholera outbreak, which started in Tafa, Suleja, Gurara, Kotangora, Magama and Rijau communities of the state, has remained unabated, steadily spreading across the state.
The Niger State Director of Public Health, Dr. Ibrahim Idris, announced that the state government had released money for drugs for treatment and that health workers had been drafted to all local communities to educate them on the epidemic and to carry out further investigations.
“We have recorded some deaths and most of the cases are either because they don’t have money to go to the hospital for treatment or the people continued to live with the epidemic in the hope that it will go away on its own but it ended up killing them,” Dr. Idris said.
But the state Commissioner of Health and Hospital Services, Dr. Mohammed Makunsidi, blamed those who continue to ignore simple hygiene rules that would have checkmated the outbreak and spread of the disease.
Dr. Makunsidi admitted that the outbreak, which started in eight local government areas few months ago had spread to all the 25 local government areas of the state, adding: “The outbreak started in April in just eight local government areas but to date, it has spread to all the twenty five local government areas of the state and has claimed 100 lives.”
Dr. Makunsidi said though government has its responsibilities to avoid the outbreak or stem the spread, members of the public also have the biggest role to play to avoid the outbreak. “Government can actually embark on sensitisation and enact laws against the outbreak of any epidemic but the onus lie on the residents to adhere strictly on the guide lines given. By now, most people should be able to live a healthy life without government chasing them and enacting laws on simple hygiene. Even with laws enacted, government does not have enough manpower to effect the laws especially in the villages and this is why we are using the media houses, mosques and churches and going from house to house for the advocacy,” he remarked.
The Niger State Environmental Protection Agency saddled with the responsibility of ensuring cleanliness of the city is almost grounded for lack of adequate manpower and trucks to manage the waste generated by the people. An investigation carried out by Arewa Voice shows that most of the staff engaged by the agency to keep Minna, the state capital clean, had since been disengaged for lack of funds. Similarly, the agency is now left with just three refuse disposal trucks to evacuate wastes generated and dumped indiscriminately in parts of the town.
To worsen matters, the few available trucks for waste disposals are in bad shape and are often overloaded with waste thrown across the town as the trucks move round.
But the situation becomes more worrisome in Nasarawa where cholera is compounded by malnutrition. Mothers are really worried as they claim they find it very difficult to get nutritional foods for their children due to poverty and poor income. Aisha Umaru, mother of a seven-month-old baby, told Arewa Voice that she has been helpless since her baby started vomiting and passing stool frequently.
“My daughter is seven months old. This sickness started last month and since then I have been doing my best to help her recover from this unidentified sickness, but there seems to be no improvement as she vomits almost every minute and passes watery stool, which has made her very lean and is really making me sad seeing my daughter like this. My husband is a tricycle rider and that is our only source of livelihood. He makes between N1, 000 and N1, 500 daily as his income since the tricycle is not his own,” she said in a tearful voice.
Her daughter has not been administered any dose of therapeutic food since the hospital she went to in Tudun Kaudi said it had run out of its stock. For 32-year-old Maryam Musa, her only son’s situation has gone from bad to worse because the year-old baby has not been able to secure good food to improve his condition two months after being diagnosed of acute malnutrition.
But reacting to the level of malnutrition in Nasarawa, the Director of Public Health in the state Ministry of Health, Dr. Ibrahim Alhassan, blamed mothers for ignoring exclusive breastfeeding of their babies. “As a government, we have taken measures to see how we can address the issue of malnutrition in the state. We have taken measures such as pre-conception intervention, intervention during conception and post-conception to ensure that the mothers are healthy enough to carry the babies and breastfeed them in the normal way.
“There are other projects that are going on now to tackle malnutrition in the state, including a state nutritional platform where programmes are ongoing and it will continue that way. We have what is called the Infant and Young Feeding intervention. We also have intervention at the community level and intervention at the facility level. We also developed a multi-sectoral plan which involves all ministries in the state and government parastatals because we are taking the issue with all seriousness,” Dr. Alhassan disclosed.