The first cholera cases were identified in Borno State, north-east Nigeria, on 16 August, despite extensive efforts to improve sanitation conditions in camps and to raise awareness of the importance of best hygiene practices.
The insurgency, and the efforts to quell it, have forcibly displaced 1.7 million people in north-east Nigeria, many of whom are living in dire conditions. To date, health partners have counted more than 3,140 confirmed and/or suspected cases and at least 53 cholera-related deaths. Health workers fear these numbers could rise exponentially because of poor water and sanitation conditions in many camps across the area.
Most of the cholera cases are concentrated in Borno’s capital, Maiduguri, and in the local government areas of Dikwa and Monguno.
“The clock is ticking. The camps for displaced persons are congested; there is not enough water, sanitation facilities are poor, and the health care system is weak. We must tackle this urgently to avoid preventable suffering and loss of life,” said Peter Lundberg, the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.
Here are five ways humanitarian partners are supporting the Nigerian Government to contain the cholera outbreak.
1. Cholera Treatment Centres
Specialized treatment centres are being set up in all currently identified outbreak hotspots. To date, some 330 beds have been made available to provide urgent care for the most severely affected women, children and men.
2. Oral rehydration points
To contain the outbreak, health workers need to be able to quickly use oral rehydration salts to rehydrate patients who are infected but not yet severely ill. Where possible, suspected cases are monitored in these rehydration sites for one or two days before being discharged.
3. Life-saving medicine
Cholera can be treated with oral rehydration salts, antibiotics and nutritional supplements to support patients’ immune systems. Health partners have been stocking clinics with these supplies, but stocks are running low and additional medicines need to be procured.
Cholera can also be prevented with a vaccine through an organized campaign. Humanitarian agencies, in support of the Ministry of Health, will roll out a campaign in the hardest-hit areas this month.
4. Surveillance and shelter spraying
Crucial for the timely detection and referral of cholera cases, surveillance teams conduct door-to-door investigations. Once a household has been identified as having a member with suspected cholera, the sick family member and anyone else showing symptoms are referred to a nearby treatment or re hydration centre. In addition, teams are deployed to spray shelters and homes with chlorine.
5. Raising awareness
Promoting good hygiene practices among communities is key to prevent further transmission of the disease. Door-to-door visits, awareness raising by youth and women’s groups, schools, posters, skits, radio broadcasts are some of the methods being used to inform communities about how to avoid infection. Humanitarian groups have also set up hand-washing stations throughout sites that house internally displaced people in hotspot areas; as well as cleaning and disinfecting latrines; and training medical workers.
Much more needs to be done to contain the outbreak should it continue to spread, but aid groups’ capacity in this region is already stretched to the limit. Humanitarian agencies are forced to divert resources from other life-saving programmes to rapidly respond to the cholera crisis. Without immediate and adequate action, this outbreak could spread to other areas of the north-east, or even become long term. Additional funds are urgently required to prevent the worst from happening.
A Cholera Response and Prevention Plan has been developed to address the immediate needs of 3.7 million people that could be affected by the outbreak.
Original source: UNOCHA.
Posted on 22 September 2017