UNICEF and WHO join national efforts to contain cholera outbreak in 11 States
ABUJA, 1 September 2010—UNICEF, WHO and other partners are supporting the Federal and state governments in Nigeria as they strive to contain a cholera outbreak in 11 states. Government officials say that as at 30 August, 6,400 cases of cholera had been reported since the beginning of the outbreak, including 352 deaths.
So far, the epidemic is affecting Sokoto, Katsina, Jigawa, Bauchi, Yobe, Gombe, Borno, Adamawa and Taraba in the north and Rivers and Cross River states in the south. The situation is particularly serious in the north, with case fatality rates as high as 10.2% and 9.6% in Jigawa and Yobe states respectively.
The Federal and state ministries of health are managing government’s response to the outbreak. States have supplied over 70% of the drugs being used to contain the epidemic while other stakeholders are providing additional supplies and medical staff, laboratory support, reagents, etc.
UNICEF has provided oral rehydration salts, water purification tablets, IV fluids, antibiotics and bacteria testing kits as well as other supplies to the ministries of health in Katsina, Bauchi, Yobe and Borno states, and is supporting TV and radio broadcast of public service announcements on how to prevent and seek treatment for cholera. “We are working with the government and other partners to monitor the situation and identify resource gaps so that we can protect those most vulnerable to cholera—children and their mothers,” said the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Suomi Sakai.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has sent experts to the affected areas to assess the situation and ensure effective response; it has provided IV fluids and rapid diagnostic kits and has trained health workers on how to treat cases effectively. WHO is also supporting cross-border surveillance with neighbouring countries such as Cameroon and Niger to prevent transmission of the disease across international borders, and facilitating exchange of information between countries on the most appropriate containment measures.
According to the WHO Representative, Dr. Peter Eriki, “WHO has field presence in all the affected states and continues to provide technical and material support to the Federal and state governments to assess and contain the outbreak.”
The Federal Minister of Health has attributed the outbreak to heavy seasonal rains spreading the infection across rural communities that have no access to proper toilet facilities. In many areas, wells remain uncovered, allowing contaminated water to flow into the communities’ drinking water supplies.
Cholera is a rapidly spreading infection that causes diarrhoea in affected persons, leading to severe dehydration and possible death. Access to clean water and sanitation facilities is essential to avoiding waterborne diseases like cholera.
According to Government of Nigeria’s 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, 42.6 percent of Nigerians (64 million people) do not have access to an improved source of water and 68.8 percent (103 million people) do not have access to safe sanitation. An estimated 46.2 million people practise open defecation.
UNICEF has been working in 13 states since 2005 in support of the installation and management of water supply systems and the establishment of “total sanitation”—universal access to sanitation and the elimination of open defecation—in rural communities and schools.
Even in the absence of these systems, individuals can protect themselves and their families from cholera and other diseases by boiling water before drinking; washing their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap (or ash), particularly after using the toilet or changing the baby and before eating; and thoroughly cooking food.