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Cholera: Water Safety Threatened By Improper Refuse Disposal, Open Defecation — NCDC

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has raised the alarm over the growing threat to water safety in the country.

According to the NCDC, improper refuse disposal and open defecation practices are endangering the quality of water sources used for drinking and personal use.

Director-general of the NCDC, Dr. Jide Idris expressed this concern in an interview with Science Nigeria over the weekend in Abuja. Cholera is a severe diarrheal illness caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The disease remains a significant health challenge, especially in regions with inadequate sanitation and clean water access. Understanding the transmission mechanism of cholera is crucial in curbing its spread and implementing effective prevention measures.

Idris stated that these unsafe practices lead to the contamination of water bodies, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases. “The health of Nigerians is at significant risk due to the prevalent improper disposal of waste and open defecation, which contaminate our water sources,” he said.

The NCDC boss urged Nigerians to adopt safe sanitation practices and called on state governments to enforce stricter waste management regulations. “We must all take responsibility for our actions to ensure the safety of our water. Proper waste disposal and the elimination of open defecation are crucial steps in this direction,” he advised.

The NCDC’s warning comes amid rising concerns about the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid, which thrive in unsanitary conditions. Idris stressed the need for public education campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of hygiene and proper sanitation practices. As the rainy season approaches, he cautioned that the risks of water contamination are heightened, making it crucial for communities to take immediate action. “We need collective efforts to protect our water sources and ensure the health and well-being of all Nigerians,” he said.

From January 1 to June 24, 2024, a total of 1,528 suspected and 65 confirmed cases of cholera, with 53 deaths, have been reported from 107 local government areas in 31 states. This reflects a case fatality rate of 3.5 percent since the beginning of the year. “The multi-sectoral National Cholera Technical Working Group, led by the NCDC and comprising the ministries of Environment and Water Resources, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners, has been providing support to the affected states.

“This support includes risk communication, active case search, laboratory diagnosis, case management, provision of response commodities, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions, and dissemination of cholera awareness jingles in both English and local languages.

“President Bola Tinubu has directed the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to establish a committee to oversee the cholera emergency operation centre operated by the NCDC. This committee will include members from the Ministries of Health, Finance, Water Resources, Environment, Youth, Aviation and Education. The initiative aims to reduce open defecation with support from state governments,” Idris said.

The NCDC has also activated the emergency operation centre to address the outbreak. “Emphasising a multi-sectoral approach, Idris highlighted the global scale of the cholera pandemic, with hundreds of thousands of cases reported annually,” he said. He stressed the urgent need for improved sanitation practices and access to clean water to combat the outbreak.

Lagos State accounts for the highest number of deaths with 29, followed by Rivers with eight, Abia and Delta with four each, Katsina with three, Bayelsa with two and Kano, Nasarawa, and Cross River with one each. This alarming trend highlights the urgent need for a coordinated response to prevent further escalation of the crisis. Sixteen states accounted for 90 percent of the confirmed cases, with Lagos being the epicentre of the outbreak.

Public health experts said that Lagos State, having the highest number of cases, should receive significant focus, with ongoing support and resources directed to managing the outbreak effectively. The states affected by cholera include Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, the FCT, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara.

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