Cholera sweeps across IDP camps in North East

Weekly Trust - - News - Judd-Leonard Okafor

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

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