Northeast is steering towards another deadly cholera, humanitarian body warns

THE Norwegian Refugee Council has raised a warning on an imminent deadly cholera outbreak to occur in the northeastern states of Nigeria due to lack of sanitation in the displacement sites and camps.

The humanitarian body gave this alert on Monday in a press release published on its website and also forwarded to the ICIR.

NRC noted that the displacement camps which are now overcrowded and lack basic sanitation facilities and hygiene would cause another cholera outbreak in states including Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe if urgent actions were not taken for its prevention.

“If the camps are not decongested and sanitation facilities improved, cholera will inevitably return, and vulnerable displaced people will bear the brunt of the epidemic again,” warned Eric Batonon, NRC’s Country Director for Nigeria.

For instance, he said 466  people are sharing one latrine at one of the displacement camps in Borno state. But according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarians affairs (OCHA), a latrine should be used by not more than 50 people in emergency situations. Hence, the sharing of latrine in Nigerian displacement camps is nine times higher than the agreed humanitarian standards.

The NRC said as a result of lack of latrines, a lot of people choose to defecate in the open, thus exacerbating an already vulnerable situation and increasing the likelihood of the spread of disease.

It added that the living conditions had deteriorated in the refugee sites in 2019 as over 100,000 people joined in late 2018. The humanitarian group said over 10,000 cases of cholera were recorded in the six northeastern states in 2018 with more than 175 registered deaths.

“The conflict in northeast Nigeria has now lasted for about ten years, and we should have learned the lessons of past cholera outbreaks and be able to prepare adequately to limit the impact,” said Batonon.

To prevent an outbreak in 2019, the humanitarian body called on the Nigerian authorities to provide additional land to develop new facilities.

“We are calling for Nigerian authorities to provide additional land to develop decongestion plans and to enable the construction of new water and sanitation facilities,” part of the release stated.

“At the same time, the international community should provide the necessary funding to respond quickly and efficiently so we can end the cycle of yearly cholera outbreaks in the region.”

Cholera is a waterborne bacterial disease that is caused by ingesting contaminated water or food. It causes diarrhoea and dehydration, which may be deadly if not treated immediately.

Safe and protected water sources and proper sanitation facilities are critical to prevent it from spreading, according to NRC.

The NRC said Safe water has only been made accessible to 24 per cent of the total number of people in need. While there are 400,000 people needing emergency shelter in northeast Nigeria in 2019, over 2,288 people have been reached.

It also estimated that 7.1 million people in the three most affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival.

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