Controversy trails reported death of 50 children from Cholera in Taraba refugee camp

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Over 300 hundred children are at severe risk of infection.

Controversy is brewing in Taraba State, North-Central Nigeria, following reported outbreak of measles and cholera believed to have killed 50 children in a refugee camp.

The camp, situated in an abandoned uncompleted healthcare centre in Bali Local Government headquarters hosts thousands of Tiv people displaced by internecine warfare between the Tiv and Fulani herdsmen.

The camp’s spokesperson, Emmanuel Kegh, said apart from the 50 children already affected by the outbreak, over 300 hundred others were at severe risk of infection.

He therefore called on the government and relevant agencies and organisations to step up response mechanism to contend the epidemics.

Mr. Kegh said before the outbreak of cholera and measles, over 20 inmates mostly children and pregnant women had died due to hunger, malnutrition and the dehumanizing conditions in the camp.

He said, “The situation here is dire. We have lost 50 children already and more may still die unless something is done urgently.

“We appeal to the acting governor and international organisations to come to our aid. We have very little to eat and no medications when we are sick.”

Mr. Kegh said the state government was paying lip service to the welfare of over 10,000 persons who were displaced in the Bali Local Government Area alone.

Continuing, he said, “Life here in the camp can simply be described as hell on earth. We are not used living on peoples’ goodwill. We are farmers and we are used to feeding very well.

“It is not a funny experience seeing your children dying of hunger. When we first came in here around March, SEMA came and gave us relief materials and later NEMA and people from the Defence headquarters.”

Several months after the relief materials were exhausted, he said no further assistance has been extended to them.

Currently, he said Fulani cattle breeders have taken over their homes and were feeding their families and animals from the farms left behind by Tiv indigenes.

Mr. Kegh, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to urgently set up a panel to investigate the crisis, which he said has led to the death of thousands of Tiv people in the state.

An inmate, Confort Ivase, lamented that apart from the outbreak of epidemics at the camp, the people are going through psychological trauma following the inhuman treatment they experienced from their neighbours.

She begged the government and humanitarian organisations in the country to visit the camp to witness the deplorable condition the refugees were subjected to.

But the state Commissioner for Health, Oliver Wubon, said there has been no outbreak of measles or cholera in any part of the state.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Wubon said there has been no outbreak of any disease in any part of the state.

He noted that the alleged outbreak of measles and cholera in Bali Local Government Area was a rumour that cannot be substantiated.

According to him, such outbreaks are first reported by disease surveillance notification officers attached to every health facility in the state.

Mr. Wubon said, “The disease surveillance notification officers in every health facility in the state have a format for reporting the outbreak of any disease based on WHO standard.

“Where there are three cases of a similar disease which is beyond normal occurrence, they are expected to see it as an alert that something serious could be happening.

“When such cases are observed, the officers note the cases down in a form and forward it the WHO, the ministry of health and directorate of primary healthcare in the bureau for local government and chieftaincy affairs.”

He insisted that the state has an ongoing disease surveillance system but noted that no report has been received to indicate an outbreak of epidemic.

Mr. Wubon said he had been in touch with the director of primary healthcare in the state, who he said made contacts with relevant field officers.

“We have no report of any outbreak or occurrence of a disease beyond the normal in any part of the state during the last one week. Not even in Bali Local Government Area.

“When the rumour of this disease outbreak came to me, I immediately got in touch with the director of primary healthcare in the state and he detailed an epidemiologist to get in touch the relevant health officials in Bali and the allegation was refuted,” he said.

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