7th September, 2010
Everyday, Nigeria keeps exhibiting symptoms of a failed state. The latest symptom is the outbreak of cholera epidemic in 11 states across the country. And there are indications that it could spread to more states.
As at the last count, over 517 people have been killed by the water-borne disease while at least 10,134 cases have been recorded.
The Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, painted a grim picture of the possibility of the disease spreading nationwide against the backdrop of the helplessness of the ministry to curtail its spread despite deploying all the resources at its disposal to the affected states.
The outbreak of cholera in parts of the country has again exposed the vulnerability of the people to all kinds of preventable diseases because of the poor state of health facilities in the country. It is a shame that this water-borne disease that has been eradicated over a century ago in many countries, including some in Africa, is killing Nigerians in droves in the 21st century.
Despite the huge wealth of the nation,Â potable water is still a luxury to most of the citizens, especially those in the rural areas. They cannot afford it. Many have to depend on rain and water from rivers, streams or brooks which is not pure for drinking. Things are even worse during the dry season when some of these sources of water dry up and villagers have to trek several kilometers in search of water. SourcesÂ of this water are usually polluted but the villagers have no alternative but to rely on them. This is the plight of most of the villagers all year round.
Since the outbreak of cholera, there has been no effective enlightenment campaign to sensitise the people about how it is spread and how to treat it. The tepid response of the Federal Ministry of Health to the spread of the epidemic is very worrisome.
The rapid spread of the epidemic may not be unconnected with the poor sources of water Nigerians drink from. According to a recent report by the State Department of the United States of America, 82.8 per cent of Nigerians do not have access to safe drinking water. We cannot provide potable water to more than half of the nationâ€™s population yet the Federal Government is shelling out billions of naira to organise a jamboree to commemorate the nationâ€™s 50th independence anniversary. This is misplaced priority. An issue as important as the health of the people is never given adequate attention, only for government officials to run from pillar to post when an epidemic like the prevailing one gets out of hand. The government tends to spend more during such national emergencies than taking proactive measures to prevent such calamities from occurring. And when the situation abates, everybody goes to sleep until another disaster strikes before everybody begins to do what should have been done earlier.
As the cholera epidemic spreads, we appeal to Nigerians to be mindful of the water they drink and to always maintain strict personal hygiene to avoid contracting the disease. Their fate is in their own hands.