A Ticking Time Bomb: How Poor Hygiene, Food Inflation Complicate Cholera Outbreak

Spread the love

Pockets of Cholera outbreaks are routine in parts of the states and often nipped in bud before they turned epidemic. But the recent interplay of poverty, poor sanitation, unaffordable cost of food, the stark absence of sanitation and hygiene infrastructure is fast pushing the spread beyond remedial efforts, with a major epidemic already on the cusp. As underreporting and difficulty in establishing casual relationships between food contaminations, resulting illnesses and death thrive, experts recommend improvement in oversight from government regulator arouy food safety to curb reduced productivity, increase healthcare burden, as well as deaths.

According to the report from Ijeoma Nwanosike and Felicitas Offorjamah ; Somewhere in Agege area of Lagos State, 19- year- old Shedrack Ochuko, approached a popular middle aged woman selling fried potatoes, yam, bean cake and others in the neighborhood. Ochuko, a sales boy, was on an errand to buy  500 naira worth of fried potatoes and yam on behalf of the boss.

“Anytime my boss is hungry,that’s where we buy something light for her to eat. But that day as I was waiting for the yam on fire to get done, I saw the sweaty woman inserting a fork inside her bra to scratch her itching skin. It was the same cutlery she deployed in picking pieces of yam for her customers.

“I was stupefied and I didn’t even know whether to collect the paid sum, or forfeit same, and thereafter let my boss know why I did not buy from the woman. But I eventually bought what I was asked to buy for my madam”

At the Table part of Ilorin in Kwara state, an elderly woman was busy picking used pet bottles near a dumpsite. Findings later showed that the bottles were soon deployed to package zobo and blended tiger nut drinks- both locally produced beverages for sale to unsuspecting members of the public.

These and many other scenarios present a succinct picture of why the health challenges is of alarming proportion in the country and a little wonder that Lagos and parts of the country are battling one of the worst Cholera epidemics in modern times.

Internal medicine practitioner at the federal medical centre, Abeokuta, Ogun state, Dr. Olusina Ajidahun, said Cholera is on the increased due to inflation, and people can no longer afford three square meals.

“As things are getting more expensive, people no longer have access to basic amenities including water” Ajidahun said. For instance, sachet water used to be sold at  5 naira. It is now 100 naira for three sachets! ” Someone who cannot do this would drink water from a river or other unsanitary sources. And we know people readily defecate in rivers. So, this kind of disease can spread easily due to poverty.

“This is also an indicator of the poor state of our health indices. Specifically it shows that we are doing poorly, health wise, to still be having cases of Cholera outbreak in 2024 when there there is famine, war or drought,” Ajidahun said.

Cholera epidemic on the prowl

THE clear and present danger that cholera poses to the country, which is on the cusp of declaring a state of emergency on the disease, is looming larger by the day if revelations by  the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) are anything to go by.

Transmitted through food, water, faeces and fingers among others, its major drivers include, inadequate wash infrastructure, challenges of open defecation and flooding associated with climate change, which leads to flooding and ultimately contamination of water sources. Added to this, is the jostle for just any available food in a country where the quotient is upswing.

Also the poor refuse disposal and poor water hygiene can schelp cholera to the environment; For instance, Anyigba community in Kogi state suffers poor water supply and dwellers are mostly students from the Prince Abubakar Audu University. Many students complained about the poor hygiene of water sellers known as “Mairuwa” many of this water sellers do not wash their rubbers properly before fetching water, Students notice this because after purchasing the water  they discovered some movement of spirogyra. This can cause cholera and some of them can’t afford the purified water popularly known as ” pure water”

Cholera is an acute diarrhoea infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium, vibrio cholera. And at the root of it’s spread, is the failure of government to provide adequate water sanitation and hygiene infrastructure. Largely associated with  the rural poor, and the economically downtrodden, the soaring rate of multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians, therefore, presents the like good of things going south if the situation is not swiftly arrested.

Despite efforts to control it, Cholera has remained a major public health challenge in many developing countries, including Nigeria, where major cholera  in history was recorded in 2021 with over 106,000 cases and over 3,000 deaths.

Since its maiden appearance as an epidemic in 1972, intermittent outbreaks have been recorded, including the later part  of 2010, which was marked  by a severe outbreak that began in the North and then spread to the other parts. It left  it’s wake, about 3,000 cases and 781 deaths.

Despite being preventable and easily treatable, Nigerian children have continued to suffer from the potentially fatal diseases.

However, from January 1 to June 13 2024, the country has recorded 1,411 suspected cases of cholera, with 30 deaths in 30 states, but that figure grew to nearly 1,300 cases as of yesterday – Wednesday June 26, 2024.

As the country gets into a race against time to contain an epidemic the scenario is further complicated by the prohibitive cost of living, which has forced a greater majority of Nigerians to devise ways of staying afloat in an economy. that appears to be defying prescribed medications, and also showing no signs of healing soon.

According to the centre, 10 states: Bayelsa, Zamfara, Abia, Cross River, Bauchi, Delta, Katsina, Imo, Nasarawa and Lagos presently bear 90% of the burden in the country.

A timely caution from the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) to the federal Government was to ensure that the outbreak is not allowed to spread to schools and also preventive measure should be taken as soon as possible.

– David Eunice Nancy
Anyigba, Kogi State.

Spread the love