More than 2,300 people have died from cholera recently as Africa’s most populous country struggles to deal with multiple disease outbreaks. The higher fatality rate is due to what many people believe is the government’s making the COVID-19 pandemic a higher priority.
And it is true that Nigeria is facing a resurgence in coronavirus cases, driven by the Delta variant, yet less than one percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.
But it is the cholera outbreak that is taking more lives than the coronavirus right now. In children between the ages of 5 and 14, the overall case fatality rate is 3.3 percent, more than double that of the COVID-19′s 1.3 percent case fatality rate in Nigeria.
By September 5, this year, about 69,925 suspected cholera cases were recorded in 25 of Nigeria’s 36 states, according to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC). Following the increase in cases, the National Cholera Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) was activated on June 22, hosted by NCDC.
And as the NCDC explains, the deployment of rapid response teams to affected areas, as well as needed case management and laboratory diagnosis, materials for risk communications, response guidelines, and the use of a reactive oral cholera vaccine (OCV) campaign is all good and the right thing to do – the underlying problem is yet to be addressed.
Cholera is a waterborne disease, an acute, diarrheal illness caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae serogroup O1 or O139, and the risk of transmission is higher when there is poor sanitation and disruption of clean water supply.
As it is, cholera is not only seasonal, but is endemic in Nigeria. Out of a population of over 200 million people, only 14 percent have access to clean, safe drinking water, according to government data from 2020, reports CTV Canada News.
Additionally, open defecation is still practiced by at least 30 percent of residents in 14 states, endangering the safety of water used for drinking and personal use. And a UNICEF study found access to safely managed sanitation services at just 21percent nationwide.
Nigeria also continues to see regular outbreaks of yellow fever, Lassa fever, measles, and other infectious diseases.
“We must remain conscious that these multiple outbreaks can further strain our health system,” outgoing Nigeria CDC director-general Chikwe Ihekweazu told the Associated Press.
Engineer Michael Oludare, an Oyo-based water scientist, said it is “very important” for authorities to provide basic water and sanitation. He said the poor, women, children, and internally displaced people are among “those that will have problems when it comes to cholera.”