Celebrating cholera at 50

Casmir Igbokwe

In less than a month now, Nigeria will celebrate its golden jubilee. Initially, N10bn was reportedly earmarked for the celebration. Though the Federal Government has reduced the amount, it has resorted to begging some corporate organisations for donations towards the anniversary cause. This will ensure that we have enough money to bake the biggest cake in the world.

For some reasons, some Nigerians will not be part of this celebration on October 1. While we clink our glasses, these unfortunate citizens will be on hospital beds. The majority who cannot afford hospital bills will make do with agbo and other local herbs.

In the past few weeks, cholera alone has dispatched at least 571 people to their graves in about 11 states of the federation. This figure does not include the seven deaths recorded in Zamfara State last week. As at August 26, about 10, 134 cholera cases had been recorded in the country.

Although the disease is particularly prevalent in the North, the South is not immune from it. Media reports last Wednesday indicated that street sweepers and refuse truck drivers were on strike in Ekiti State. Traders were reportedly selling foodstuffs beside overfilled refuse bins in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital. The bins also serve as dumps for faeces, as some residents have no toilets.

Cholera is caused by a bacterium transmitted largely through contaminated water or food. Poor sanitary conditions help to spread the disease. And you ask, why is this disease wreaking havoc in Nigeria in this 21st century? The last major outbreak of cholera in the United Kingdom was reportedly recorded in 1854. In other advanced nations, it is a long forgotten scourge.

In our dear nation, we may still be talking about the epidemic in the next century. Forget about the so-called Millennium Development Goals or Vision 20: 2020. There is nothing yet to indicate that we have any good vision for the future. Our main source of water is still sachet water popularly called pure water. Some drink borehole without any form of treatment. Only a negligible few drink treated water.

 In a recent report, the United States State Department says 82.8 per cent of Nigerians have no access to potable water. According to the report, water supply is unreliable though all the 36 states in the country have state water boards that focus on municipal supply.

To the Nigerian Medical Association, the problem is bad governance. The President of the group, Dr. Omede Idris, was quoted to have said that the epidemic was avoidable and preventable if there were measurable level of emergency preparedness, response to emergencies and surveillance under good leadership.

I agree. Our response to medical emergencies is appalling. Last Sunday, I wrote that death was cheap in Nigeria. A friend, Mike Nzeagwu, reacted, saying it’s even cheaper than I imagined. He drew my attention to the death of the former sports editor of THISDAY, Emeka Enechi, who died last week of tetanus infection. Enechi sustained a minor injury from an auto accident he had some two weeks ago. The man died in a public hospital in Asaba. What this means is that the hospital either does not have anti-tetanus injections, or the doctors were negligent.

Saying that our health care system is too poor will be stating the obvious. My dad was recently treated of typhoid and malaria in a private hospital in Enugu. Right now, he finds it difficult to walk. While at the hospital, a physiotherapist attended to him. But the problem did not go away. Some friends say it could be prostrate. Some say it could be arthritis. Some  others have diagnosed witchcraft attacks.

We thought of doing a Computed Tomography scan to know exactly what the problem is. I have been made to understand that the CT scan equipment at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, is faulty. My younger sister in Port Harcourt made a quick check in the Garden City. Her findings? The equipment at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital is also not working. She could not confirm the current state of the one at the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital before this piece went to bed.

Part of the immediate response of the Federal Government to the cholera crisis was a Facebook posting of President Goodluck Jonathan. The President reportedly said he had ordered the Ministry of Water Resources to provide potable water to the affected communities. Such communities will also be provided with toilets by the Ministry of Health.

These are remedial measures. Governments at all levels need to do more. Local governments can contribute by providing treated borehole water especially in rural areas. The state water boards should justify their existence, or be scrapped. The Ministry of Water Resources should commit the resources at its disposal to useful purpose. And no purpose in that ministry can be more useful than the provision of potable water. If it cannot do this, then workers of the ministry have no reason to collect salaries every month.

In my area in Ikeja, I learnt that government water runs occasionally. The Lagos State Water Board, I understand, has circulated some leaflets advising residents to patronise its water. If this board is serious, it should intensify this campaign and also assure consumers of the safety of the pipe-borne water. I say this because some of the pipes have rusted and may not really be a good passage way for drinking water.

In the interim, Nigerians should help themselves to prevent water-borne diseases. This they can do by boiling their water and food thoroughly. Some use water treatment substance called WaterGuard to treat their water but I can’t say how efficacious it is. As for those who drink “pure” water, be sure of the source or the company that packages the water.

While we prepare to celebrate our independence, it will be worthwhile to reserve some portions of our anniversary cake for those who may still be passing watery stool in the hospitals by October 1.

Advertisements

2 Comments »

  1. 1
    Adele Emmanuel Says:

    Jamb exams going on nation wide, one of the centres in Aba, named STARDOM ICT CENTRE, Osisioma Ngwa Aba is collecting the sum #1000 from each candidate that is writing this exam in their center before allowing them to go in for the exam room this morning being the first day of March 2016. When I contacted the security operatives in the center, I. e The nscdc, they told that they are concerned with their work, that don’t know about the money being collected from the candidates. I tried to reach the so called director of the center, but to no avail. Pls, I want to ask, is that a directive from jamb? Can this centre be asked why they had to collect the money if it’s not a directive from jamb. Pls I need answers to these questions.

  2. 2
    Adele Emmanuel Says:

    Jamb exams going on nation wide, one of the centres in Aba, named STARDOM ICT CENTRE, Osisioma Ngwa Aba is collecting the sum #1000 from each candidate that is writing this exam in their center before allowing them to go in for the exam room this morning being the first day of March 2016. When I contacted the security operatives in the center, I. e The nscdc, they told that they are concerned with their work, that don’t know about the money being collected from the candidates. I tried to reach the so called director of the center, but to no avail. Pls, I want to ask, is that a directive from jamb? Can this centre be asked why they had to collect the money if it’s not a directive from jamb. Pls I need answers to these questions. I took a shot of the center, how can I post it here?


RSS Feed for this entry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: