THE current resurgence of cholera in 22 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, is a worrisome public health crisis, especially coming amid the emergence of the highly infectious Delta variant which signposts the third wave of COVID-19 cases.
Since the beginning of the latest outbreak in 2021, no less than 816 deaths have been recorded in these states, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC. No part of the country is immune from the threat of cholera as the disease is a seasonal epidemic mostly during rainy seasons.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholerae. It remains a global threat to public health, an indicator of inequity and lack of social development.
In its most severe form, cholera is one of the most fatal illnesses known because infected patients may die within a few hours if medical treatment is not provided.
Every year, there are 1.3 million to 4.0 million estimated cases of cholera, and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide. Nigeria is among countries that are hard-hit annually.
A total of 31,425 suspected cases have been reported by the NCDC as of August 1, 2021. The spread of the disease is promoted by poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene – collectively known as WASH.
Without access to clean water, sanitation facilities and good hygiene practices among Nigerians, it will be difficult to eliminate cholera.
After more than three decades of battling cholera, Nigeria should no longer be recording such large-scale outbreaks. The conditions that bring about the disease are all preventable, but we are doing little to provide them.
The practice of open defecation, careless waste disposal or sewerage and drinking of water from contaminated sources should be discouraged through the provision of access to potable water and aiding regular hand washing and safe food practices.
We charge the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to proactively collaborate with the Federal and State Ministries of Health towards providing round-the-clock emergency medical assistance to communities affected by the epidemic as a way of curbing its further spread.
The federal and state health and environmental authorities must step up their sensitive surveillance and prompt reporting of cases.
All Nigerians must learn to take proactive measures to stem the spread of this disease. We must restore the culture of sanitary inspection, especially of rural and poor urban areas.
Public enlightenment on the threat of cholera and, indeed other infectious diseases should be carried out at the grassroots with special focus on prevention through personal hygiene and good sanitation habits, as well as the identification and prompt response.