Coordination, strengthened partnership will reduce cholera deaths in 2022- FG

Nigerian Government, through the Federal Ministry of Water Resources has called for stakeholders’ coordination and renewed commitment from all states to reduce cholera outbreaks in the country.

It could be recalled that the number of cases reported nationally in 2021 was 111,062 with 3,604 deaths in 33 States and FCT, exceeding the number of cases reported in 2020.

This was the thrust at the ongoing Cholera Preparedness, Prevention and Response Training for Stakeholders in Abuja, organised in partnership with UN Children’s Fund.

The Representative of the Ministry, Mr Emmanuel Awe, noted that poor coordination, poor water safety plans were major challenges promoting cholera in the country.

According to him, there is need to do more to strengthen states’ preparedness and response plans towards preventing cholera outbreak in the country, noting that strategies were on ground to mitigate its reoccurrence.

“Last year, we recorded about 4,000 deaths which is definitely not acceptable, so we are trying to prevent reoccurrence of that situation, we now have the idea of what actually happened that led to increased cholera deaths in 2021.

“Having known the fact that the states were not well prepared in terms of training and knowing what to do, they were not stocking the essential hygiene kits that should be as contingency plans.

“These plans were parts of response to help in preventing further spread of cholera whenever it occurs’’.

Awe, who is the Director, Water Quality Control and Sanitation with the ministry, noted that all partners have agreed to provide necessary items needed for cholera response before the next rainy season.

“It may not be possible to totally eradicate cholera now, but it is preventable with collaboration with the states and by bringing everyone on board to see that in no distant time, we are able to prevent cholera in our country.’’

Awe expressed optimism that all states would key into the efforts towards cholera prevention, saying unnecessary deaths of under-five children was worrisome.

He noted that the FG had experienced instances of states’ not showing timely and adequate commitment as required, saying that efforts were on to mobilise all state governors to key into the cholera response plan.

“We will put in adequate resources and essential requirements before the rainy season, because it is at the onset of rainy season that cholera figures rise.

“We will contact every critical stakeholder to mitigate cholera in the country.

“Government shall continue to support the states in the provision of water and sanitation infrastructure especially to the public places and institutions, although we expect the States to own Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) as their constitutional responsibilities’’.

The director said the FG has developed the cholera prevention and elimination strategies through the construction of water schemes including boreholes and dams to curtail the spread of cholera and related waterborne diseases, and the construction of toilets to reduce open defecation.

“As at January 2022, we have been able to record 76 LGAs out of the 774 in the country that are entirely Open Defecation Free, in addition to thousands of other communities that are open defecation free.

“A number of communities have been trained on Water Safety Planning, as well as Community Based Water Quality Surveillance all in our bids to improve the quality of the drinking water consumed in the rural areas’’.

Mr Oumar Doumbouya, WASH Manager, UNICEF, said its role was to support the Nigerian government and communities in helping children achieve their rights, saying 2021 fatality rate on cholera was worrisome.

He said over 3,600 deaths in 2021 had seen the need for everyone to support the federal government in cholera prevention, preparedness and response, noting UNICEF’s key role in supporting the ministry through strengthening of coordination, and the WASH in Emergency Working Group.

This, he noted, had seen strengthened coordination amongst partners supporting the FG and the states, adding that the cholera training would help to build the needed knowledge in terms of coordination, preparedness, response and the release of budget for cholera response.

“While 2021 has been really worst in terms of cholera, it also gives us an opportunity to reflect on why this happened, why so many people died from cholera, why we can prevent cholera, but it has happened.

“We are now working on these different gaps so that in 2022 and beyond, we are more prepared, we are looking at cholera elimination.

“This is something we can prevent together with all partners including the states, altogether, we are hopeful that we can find a way to mitigate cholera, and the nest way is to prevent it to happen, and prevention is key’’.

He said Nigerians needed to understand that cholera was still around, saying people are aware about COVID-19 by using their masks at all times.

“When it comes to cholera, it seems like it is okay, no, it is not okay, we should be mindful, we should wash our hands at all times, we should be mindful about the food we consume.

“We should be mindful about our sanitation and hygiene behaviours; this is what needs to be spread all around.

He said there was need for continuous awareness about cholera, saying this could be possible through behaviour change risk communication.

“ People in urban slums are also very vulnerable and not just rural areas alone, when there is a disease, it can spread quickly, and we really need to avoid that and raise awareness on behaviour change, risk communication so that people are mindful about cholera still being here’’.

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