Nigeria is moving close to a major cholera outbreak if urgent sanitary measures are not put in place at the Internal Displaced Camps in the North-east, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has warned.
The Non-Governmental Organisation in a press statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday warned that if urgent actions are not taken, the overcrowded camps, coupled with the shortage of sanitation and hygiene facilities will cause another cholera outbreak in the country.
The region since 2009 has been under siege due to the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents who are seeking an independent Islamic state.
The insecurity has displaced over two million people. The majority of the population who fled from their homes are living in highly congested displacement sites which are well below international minimum standards.
They also lack access to basic amenities including water and latrines. This led to a major cholera outbreak last year.
Last year, Nigeria recorded at least 10,000 cases of cholera and 175 deaths from the IDP camps, although the actual number could be higher.
Cholera is a waterborne bacterial disease that is caused by ingesting contaminated water or food. It causes diarrhoea and dehydration, which may be deadly if not treated immediately.
Safe and protected water sources and proper sanitation facilities are critical to prevent it from spreading.
Over the years, Nigeria especially, the North-eastern part of the country has been affected by cholera on a yearly basis. The incident in the region has tripled due to the violence in 2018 forcing over scores of people to flee to the displacement camps.
NRC has warned that if care is not taken, “this year the epidemic, could spread even more rapidly as a wave of forced displacement has led to the overcrowding of camps”.
The Country Director for Nigeria, Eric Batonon said if the camps are not decongested and sanitation facilities improved, cholera will inevitably return and vulnerable displaced people will bear the brunt of the epidemic again.
He said the conflict in the region has now lasted for about ten years, “and we should have learned the lessons of past cholera outbreaks and be able to prepare adequately to limit the impact.”
For instance, 466 people are sharing one latrine at one of the displacement camps in the state of Borno, according to the Humanitarian Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Mr Batonon said this is ”nine times above the agreed humanitarian standards, which is set at 50 people per latrine in emergency situations”.
“As a result of lack of sanitation, people choose to defecate in the open, exacerbating an already vulnerable situation and increasing the likelihood of the spread of disease.
“We are calling for Nigerian authorities to provide additional land to develop decongestion plans and to enable the construction of new water and sanitation facilities. At the same time, the international community should provide the necessary funding to respond quickly and efficiently so we can end the cycle of yearly cholera outbreaks in the region.”
Last year to curtail the spread of the disease, the World Health Organisation in collaboration with the Federal Government and development partners had embarked on mass cholera vaccination at the IDP camps and environs.
WHO in 2018 had deployed personnel, treatment kits, laboratory equipment as well as infection prevention and control supplies to prevent fatalities due to the cholera outbreak in Borno.
With the laboratory confirmation of samples of suspected cholera cases sent to the National Reference Laboratory Abuja, the Borno Ministry of Health on September 6, 2018, officially declared an outbreak of cholera in the state.
The camps mainly affected by the outbreak are in, Jere, Kaga, Konduga and Magumeri local government areas.