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Cholera and Flooding events in Nigeria – Implications and Solutions

Nigeria is experiencing Cholera outbreaks along with extreme flooding events in many states. According to news updates, 12 states are under water in Nigeria. 4 of the 12 states classified as National disasters and 3 out of the 4 disaster states are part of the 18 states ravaged by the Cholera outbreak.

Reviewing WHO fact sheet, floods can potentially increase the transmission of water-borne diseases, such as typhoid fever, cholera, leptospirosis and hepatitis A. It states that flooding is associated with an increased risk of infection where there is significant population displacement and/or water sources are compromised. This is the current Nigerian scenario. CGTN Africa reports that 30,000 people have been displaced and over 100 people have died as a result of the flood in the past two weeks. Also, according to the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, 47 million people practice open defecation (OD) and out of 774 local governments, only 3 have been certified open defecation free (ODF). The water sources are heavily compromised with human and animal waste.

The WHO fact sheet states that the major risk factor for outbreaks associated with flooding is the contamination of drinking-water facilities. When this happens, the risk of outbreaks can be minimized if the risk is identified and disaster response addresses the provision of clean water as a priority. The total cost of the disaster response needs to be analyzed considering this current Cholera outbreak in Nigeria has gone on for 10 months.

Tablets may be the cheaper option for all concerned but what about the cost of constantly having to charter flights to affected areas to give families Chlorine/Iodine tablets to disinfect their water or top up their existing supply. This is not sustainable because when the tablets are exhausted the family goes back to drinking unsafe water. It also does not take into consideration that because of high organic matter found in their water sources associated with warmer climates, in addition to the high human waste content from OD practices, higher than normal doses of Chlorine or Iodine not allowed in other continents will need to be used to disinfect the water for the pathogens to be eliminated. Excessive use of chlorine as a disinfectant has been linked to Cancer. The Nigerian government needs to work for its people ensuring their basic needs are met and their health is not affected.

More sustainable solutions need to be sought. An immediate solution could be the provision of free instant microbial water filters like lifestraw for the very poor in the affected communities, and to the rest, subsidies/rebates to purchase instant microbial water filters. Provision of subsidies and rebates by Governments to their people is a well-known practice around the world and in Nigeria. Governments e.g. Canada offer their citizens subsidies/rebates to purchase much needed technologies/products in situations where a need has been identified that the private sector can fulfill. The Nigerian government can do the same in this situation while they look into building a more effective water supply system for the country. This solution can be classified as a climate change adaptation measure using climate resilient technology.

Help from all stakeholders – public and private, local and international – is needed. Awareness generation, education and action are all required but Nigerians must see access to safe drinking water as a priority and a right.

References:

1. Flooding and communicable diseases fact sheet obtained September 25, 2018
http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/ems/flood_cds/en/

2. Nigeria declares ‘national disaster’ after severe floods kill 100 obtained September 25, 2018 https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/18/africa/nigeria-flood-national-disaster/index.html

3. Status of Water Sanitation and Hygiene in Nigeria by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources 

4. Flood-12 States Under Water Osinbajo Raises Alarm obtained September 25, 2018 https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/09/flood-12-states-under-water-osinbajo-raises-alarm/

5. Alternatives to Chlorine as a Disinfectant in Drinking Water

6. Nigeria floods displaces more than 30,000 people obtained September 25, 2018

7. Minister seeks time from court to account for spending on water obtained September 25, 2018. https://www.environewsnigeria.com/minister-seeks-time-from-court-to-account-for-spending-on-water/

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