Recently reported outbreak of cholera epidemic in the country, particularly in Plateau and Ebonyi States, which has left no fewer than 40 persons dead and several others, including children, hospitalised, shows the pitiable conditions under which our people, especially the illiterate and poor live in.
This return of cholera, often referred to as “disease of dirty-living”, means it is a problem of the poor, illiterate and oppressed people who are less likely to provide for themselves the simple amenities of life. This also is an indication that governance is not impacting on the lives of the down-trodden masses. Without doubt, the death recorded through cholera is avoidable, and is possibly a sign of bad governance.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, cholera is a bacterial infection that is highly communicable and thrives in humid and dirty environments, particularly in the tropical zones. It is an acute intestinal infection that is caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium, Vibrio Cholera. It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days, and produces an enter toxin that causes copious, painless, watery diarrhoea and vomiting, which can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.
Thus, to fight cholera, first, there must be clean water. But sadly enough, over the years it has been highly politicised, as the politicians often used it as a campaign issue, but renege when elections are won. Today, it is a sad commentary that in the 21st Century Nigeria’s pipe-borne water has almost disappeared, making way to boreholes and ever-present water hawkers called “mai ruwa”. In fact, United Nations’ figures show that half of Nigeria’s over 160 million population do not have safe drinking water while a third do not have proper sanitation.
The next is the reorientation of the hygienic nature of the people. Many people still defecate in the open;
others live near streams and rivers. During the rainy season, such infected waste return to the people who use such water for various domestic purposes such as drinking and cooking. In addition to this is the absence of sewage system in many towns and cities while public toilets, dustbins and incinerators are largely non-existent.
Around the towns and urban centres are slums, with painless houses and inhabitants.
We therefore believe that the greatest weapon against cholera and other diseases is not only with money and drugs, but through genuine public awareness either through the mass media, town criers, etc. on the need to maintain clean environment, observing the simplest rules of personal hygiene and environment-friendly living.
But to achieve this, the government must lead the way by providing potable water, creating awareness amongst the population, enforcing environmental and sanitation-related laws and providing medical care in case of outbreaks. So, if the developed economies of the world can attain a zero rate of cholera outbreaks amongst their citizens due to the availability of water-treatment plants, access to toilets, hand-washing facilities and proper sewage, must be provided government.
We therefore call on government at all levels to stop using the provision of potable water to all as a political tool, as many still drink water from germ-infested sources. Nigerians must ensure proper sanitation and drinking of clean and boiled water. Above all, it is important that government should endeavour to introduce intervention methods, which would address the root causes of poor sanitation and unsafe water supplies in order to achieve zero incidence of cholera across the country. Anti-cholera interventions should be holistic, targeting short-term measures as well as long-term improvement in human development indices and the provision of basic social amenities.

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