Saturday, September 25, 2021

Cholera Outbreak: FG Flags Off National Environmental Sanitation

FMoE Cholera
A cross section of dignitaries, stakeholders at the flag off ceremony today in Abuja.

As part of measures to contain and prevent further spread of cholera outbreak in Nigeria, the Federal Government has flagged off a nationwide national environmental sanitation response in the country.

At the event today (September 6) at Bazango community in Kubwa, the outgoing Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, said the seriousness government attacher to the outbreak was underscored by the collaboration and partnership between the Federal Ministry of Environment and other stakeholders including the Bwari Area Council, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Administration, federal ministries of health, water resources, agriculture and rural development, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Abuja Environmental Protection Board, various state governments in responding to the scourge.

Recall the latest situation report from Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) released on August 17, 2021 indicated a total number of 37,498 suspected cases including 1,149 deaths in 24 states and FCT, comprising Benue, Delta, Zamfara, Gombe, Bayelsa, Kogi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Kebbi, Cross River, Niger, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Yobe, Kwara, Enugu, Borno, Kastina, Adamawa, Taraba and FCT, Abuja with increasing number of new cases in, Zamfara, Bauchi, Kano, Gombe, Plateau, Niger, and Abuja FCT.

The minister said it was against this background that the event was organised to flag off response activities to the increasing rate of spread of the disease across the country as well as sensitize the general public on cholera preventive and control measures to avert further outbreaks and also strengthen collaboration with NCDC and other stakeholders in tackling the cholera scourge.

Represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Abel Enitan, he said the ministry in collaboration with relevant stakeholders including environmental uealth officers (EHOs) in the states and local government areas had commenced the nationwide intervention response activities covering such areas as sanitary inspection of premises/environmental health surveillance of hotspot communities; treatment of contaminated water sources/sites; strengthening capacity of environmental health officers (EHOs) in the state ministries of environment and the affected LGAs; sanitary inspection of food business premises of affected communities; advocacy, sensitization and community town hall meetings on control of open defecation practices and its health impact; sanitary inspection of schools (primary and secondary) in affected communities.

Others include the 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.

He thanked the chief and people of Bazango Community, Kubwa, for their cooperation and unflinching support not only for the event, but the entire programme to contain the cholera outbreak and save lives, adding the ministry would commence the construction of a modern toilet with borehole and solar powered pump in the community before the end of the year as part of its efforts to eradicate open defecation and contain cholera outbreak.

“l urge everyone of us; government, NG0s, CBOs, development partners, individuals and community leaders including the media organisations to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Environment and other stakeholders as partners in progress, in implementing environmental sanitation programs to control and prevent the spread of cholera outbreak and other sanitation enabled diseases in the country,” he added.

In his goodwill message, the Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu, pointed out that the spread and fatality of the cholera outbreak being witnessed this year had been unprecedented in scope and fatalities which should spur us to take additional measures to remedy the situation and provide some medium- and long-term structures to avoid a reoccurrence in the future.

Being water borne disease, he averred that cholera, can be prevented with adequate provision of water and sanitation facilities, complemented with good hygiene practices. 

“This partly explains why the ministry has been in the forefront of advocating for the prioritization of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services by stakeholders. Our objective is to improve access to basic WASH services for the populace which in 2019 stood at 70 per cent for water supply, 44 per cent for sanitation and 16 per cent for hygiene. We are also desirous of improving Nigeria’s undeserved reputation as the country with the highest number of persons practicing open defecation in Africa estimated at 46 million persons. This practice has negative implications for health, education, and productivity coupled with the lack of dignity, inconvenience and violence experienced by women and girls, when practicing open defecation,” he added.

Represented by the ministry’s assistant director, water quality, Elizabeth Ugoh, Adamu said the ministry was also partnering with the Federal Ministry of Environment in accelerating stakeholders’ engagement and community mobilization towards imbibing a culture of safe WASH practices and attaining the SDG 6 targets for water and sanitation in order to ensure the eradication of water borne diseases such as cholera.

He posited that the national environmental sanitation response flag off was further evidence of the determination of the government in curbing the menace of cholera in our communities. 

In his goodwill message, the UNICEF Nigeria WASH manager, Michael Forson, said the organization partners and collaborates with the government, civil society and the private sector to create access to safe water while promoting community-led water safety planning process (ensuring water is kept safe right from the source of production, through transporting to storage at the house and usage). 

In his welcome address, the Bwari Area Council chairman, Hon. John Gabay, lamented that the council is one of the worst hit by the outbreak, saying, however, that steps had been taken to contain the spread of the pandemic.

According to him, the council has commenced intensive sensitization of the 10 wards within the council on preventive measures, adding the council will complement government’s effort to forestall further ravage of cholera in the council.

Similarly, the Chief of Bazango, Jibrin Mohammed, pledged the community’s willingness and readiness to adhere to all preventive measures to contain the spread of the pandemic, even as he urged government to provide them with dumping sites, potable water and other necessary amenities to promote better hygiene in the community.

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