Cholera sweeps across IDP camps in North East
An outbreak of cholera is spreading through camps for people displaced by Boko Haram violence in the North East, global health organisations have announced. At least 28 people have died from cholera, up from 20 reported early this week.
Another 837 are suspected to have been infected, up from 319 reported on Tuesday by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), including 145 children aged under five, the United Nations Children’s Fund warned on Thursday.
The outbreak was first identified in the Muna Garage camp in Maiduguri. It has since spread to six different camps for displaced people in Borno. But NCDC says Muna Garage is most affected.
All affected locations have been designated as hotspots.
UNICEF raised concern about 1.4 million displaced people, including 350,000 children under age five living in the cholera hotspots in the North East.
“Cholera is difficult for young children to withstand at any time, but becomes a crisis for survival when their resilience is already weakened by malnutrition, malaria and other water borne diseases,” said Pernille Ironside, UNICEF deputy representative in Nigeria.
“Cholera is one threat amongst many that children in Northeast Nigeria are battling today in order to survive.”
The outbreak occurs as Boko Haram violence and military efforts against insurgency across the North East have driven 1.7 million out of their homes and left an estimated 3.6 million people without adequate access to basic water services.
Water, sanitation and hygiene services remain underfunded.
Only 49% of funding UNICEF needs to provide 2 million people with access to clean water has been provided to date.
The most-affected Muna Garage is the site for a cholera treatment centre, set up to help treat people infected.
NCDC has spoken of plans for mass vaccination against cholera in efforts to prevent further spread.
Borno State government is leading response, with support from UNICEF, NCDC, Doctors without Borders and other development agencies.
The rapid response team is helping coordinate, identify and trace people in possible contact with infected camp residents living with cholera, and carry out laboratory testing and treatment.
“Risk communications activities, using both conventional media and door-todoor enlightenment have been reinforced,” said NCDC national coordinator Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.
The outbreak isn’t recent. A first one was reported in Kwara on June 7 to the World Health Organisation. According to the reporting to the WHO, the actual disease began in the last week of April, and infections and deaths increased sharply since 1 May. Reports of new cases declined later.
By 30 June, a total 1,558 cases suspected to be cholera had been reported from five council areas of Kwara - 18 in Asa, 450 in Ilorin East, 215 in Ilorin South, 780 in Ilorin West and 50 in Moro. Information on 45 other cases remains missing, the WHO said.
WHO has advised enhanced surveillance to detect new infections, improved record keeping and data management at health care facilities to get a handle on the outbreak.
Cholera causes acute water diarrhea in both children and adults. It is endemic in Nigeria but spikes during rainy season between April and September.
The disease is most often spread through contaminated food or water and is common in areas with overcrowding, poor sanitation and poor hygiene.
“When severe, cholera is characterised by sudden onset of severe acute watery diarrhea which can lead to death as a result of dehydration,” said Ihekweazu.
“Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, weakness. Members of the public are urged to report all sick persons with these signs or symptoms to a health care facility immediately for early initiation of treatment. Health care workers are strongly advised to practice universal care precautions while handling patients at all times.”
NCDC has urged states to report any cholera case immediately to prevent widespread outbreaks.
A cholera patient at an IDP Camp in Maiduguri