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Cholera: How to get it right

As the editorial of Thisday newspaper, 17th June 2024 puts it, in more than four decades, the Cholera outbreak has been a recurring episode in…

As the editorial of Thisday newspaper, 17th June 2024 puts it, in more than four decades, the Cholera outbreak has been a recurring episode in Nigeria. Still, we are nowhere near controlling and preventing it.

In 1992, between January and February, more than 2, 000 people reportedly died, while in Esan South Local Government Area, Edo State, alone, more than 200 died! Year-in-year-out, if the outbreak is controlled, that is the end until another one comes up, and then we start all over.

Currently, there are over 1500 suspected cases and 53 deaths, hence the country declared a health emergency over the outbreak, and a National Cholera Multi-sectoral Emergency Operation Centre was activated for coordinating epidemiological data, information, ongoing response efforts, and others.

The coming of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in 2011, and further empowerment by law in 2018 to enhance the country’s preparedness and response to epidemics; detect, investigate, prevent, and control diseases of public health importance at the national and international stage, is part of the bigger objectives towards safeguarding public health in Nigeria. But why are we not getting it right?

We have the NCDC, many policies guidelines on water, sanitation & Hygiene, human, animal, and environmental health, among others; we have large number of Environmental health practitioners at the primary health care level who can drive community and public engagement on hygiene practice, water sanitation, control and regulation of food premises and food handlers, ensuring compliance with relevant public health laws on water, sanitation, and food safety; we have the media… the list is endless, but why are we where we are?

NCDC, being the nerve centre of the country’s public health safety, needs every support from other relevant government organisations in terms of engagement and coordination. The success of the centre could not be achieved without the support of major ministries of environment, Agriculture, water resources and information.

The threat to the agency as stated in its ‘Strategy & Implementation Plan’ 2023-2027 lies in the ‘inadequate political will in states, lack of strong coordination framework among relevant complementary agencies’, among others. What is obtainable now is that some states and federal ministries work on their own, with no strong synergy among them, which is not only a threat to the NCDC, but to the realization of safeguarding the public health of the nation.

Notwithstanding, each has its mandate, but coordination with the centre will have a greater impact, therefore all hands should be joined to succeed together.

Sani Garba Mohammed, Karaye LGA, Kano State [email protected]

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