As cholera continues to ravage many states of Nigeria with high fatalities recorded from the outbreak, the Federal Government says it intends to commence nationwide intervention response activities to contain its spread.
Speaking at an emergency press conference today (August 23) in Abuja to sensitize Nigerians on the preventive measures and government’s effort to contain the scourge, the Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, said the ministry would be flagging off National Environmental Sanitation Response Intervention to Cholera Outbreak in Kubwa, Abuja which is currently the epi-centre in the FCT. Afterwards, the ministry in collaboration with relevant stakeholders including environmental health officers (EHOs) in the states and local government areas will embark on nationwide intervention response activities, he stated.
Recall that the latest situation reports from Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) released on August 10, 2021 indicated a total of 33,661 suspected cases including 938 deaths in 22 states and FCT, including Benue, Delta, Zamfara, Gombe, Bayelsa, Kogi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Kebbi, Cross River, Niger, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Yobe, Kwara, Enugu, Borno, Kastina and Adamawa with increasing number of new cases in Zamfara, Bauchi, Kano, Gombe, Plateau, Niger, Zamfara and FCT.
“It is against this background that the Federal Ministry of Environment is organising this press conference to respond to the increasing rate of spread of cholera cases across the country, sensitize the general public on cholera preventive and control measures to avert further outbreaks and strengthen collaboration with NCDC and other stakeholders in tackling the cholera scourge,” he said.
According to the minister, the country continues to suffer from seasonal public health events (cholera epidemic and other sanitation-enabled diseases) largely due to the nation’s collective behaviours and attitude towards environmental sanitation and hygiene practices which are very poor. He charged all state governments, commissioners for environment, local government chairmen/councillors and environmental health officers across the country to step up their sanitation and hygiene programmes and activities to control and prevent further outbreak and spread of cholera in the country.
“In responding to the recent cholera outbreak, the Federal Ministry of Environment has activated the sanitation desks in the 36 state ministries of environment and FCT urging them to carry out environmental sanitation activities in their various states aimed at containing the outbreak. The ministry has also requested the environmental health officers in the states and local governments across the country to intensity their efforts in carrying out sanitary inspection of premises and abatement of nuisances that could result to outbreak of diseases such as cholera, lassa fever, etc,” he stated.
Listing areas of nationwide intervention response activities, Abubakar said they included sanitary inspection of premises/environmental health surveillance of hotspot communities; disinfection of contaminated water sources/sites; strengthening capacity of environmental health officers (EHOs) in the state ministries of environment and the affected LGAs; and sanitary inspection of food business premises of affected communities.
Other activities include advocacy, sensitization and community town hall meetings on control of open defecation practices and its health impact; sanitary inspection of schools (primary & secondary) in affected communities; training of community volunteers on safe water handling, environmental sanitation and hygiene practices; and working with the state and local governments to ensure enforcement of relevant environmental sanitation laws, standards, regulations and guidelines in all the communities.
The minister further advised citizens to imbibe good sanitation and hygiene practices and take preventive and control measures such as keeping the environment clean; ensuring the use of clean and safe water; washing hands regularly with soap and running water especially at critical moments such as after using the toilet, after coughing or sneezing, after cleaning a child who has gone to the toilet, after touching books and money before preparing food; before (and after eating); and after playing with animals.
He also urged citizens to avoid open defecation; ensure they cook their food well, keep it covered and eat while it is hot; as well as dispose wastes regularly and at designated collection centres.
“I also want to use this opportunity to assure the general public that the Federal Ministry of Environment remains committed to ensuring a clean and healthy environment for all Nigerians. This is a collective responsibility which requires concerted efforts of all and sundry. This is the only way we can prevent and curtail incidences of cholera outbreak and other communicable diseases. I therefore call on all members of the public to keep their environment clean,” he added.