BY REMILEKUN DARAMOLA in Maiduguri•
As the rainy season is scheduled to commence in the North East, a group, Medecins Sans Frontieres, otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, has raised an alarm over possible outbreak of cholera in the region.
MSF, in a statement by Musa Yahaya, the Field Communication Officer, Borno Nigeria said: “The upcoming rainy season can also adversely affect the situation of water and sanitation, increasing cholera transmission.”
Yahaya quoted Dr. Natalie Roberts, MSF Emergency Manager, as saying: “We feared this could develop into a massive cholera outbreak which would have a huge impact on the population, and that the response would be very difficult.”
Roberts also said: “It is therefore crucial to use all available means of control, which includes vaccinating as soon as possible.
“We know from our experience in cholera epidemics that providing people in high-risk areas with one dose of the vaccine in addition to other control measures can quickly reduce or even stop the spread of the disease. So we are very happy to respond to the health authorities’ request for support.”
The statement revealed that: “Local health authorities are aiming to vaccinate over 600,000 people in high risk areas, who should receive their first dose before the start of Ramadan.
“MSF’s assistance was requested in helping to define the vaccination strategy, training and supervision of the vaccination teams, data management and provision of logistical support during the campaign including for the transport of vaccines.”
It stated that: “MSF has been responding to this epidemic since early March, by managing a cholera treatment centre with a capacity of 100 beds, and setting up oral rehydration points and additional smaller treatment unit where required.
“In total, 4207 patients have been treated in MSF’s structures between March 19th and May 6. To prevent the risk of transmission, the teams supply chlorinated water to an average of 160 households per day.”
“MSF has previously managed emergency cholera vaccination campaigns during epidemics in South Sudan, Zambia and Malawi, but this is the first time the organization has been involved in such an operation in Nigeria,” it said.
The statement also revealed that, “MSF is also responding to a cholera outbreak in Yobe state. MSF continues to provide support to the Ministry of Health with a cholera vaccination campaign and is raising awareness in the community about adequate water and sanitation practices to prevent new outbreaks.
“Elsewhere in Nigeria, the organisation has been providing healthcare to people affected by conflict in the northeast since mid-2014. MSF is also running extensive child and reproductive health programmes in Sokoto and Jigawa States.
“The organisation provides care to children affected by lead poisoning in Zamfara and Niger states, and to victims of sexual violence in Port Harcourt.
It added that: “Despite all the efforts made so far to control the outbreak, cholera – a deadly disease which can be easily cured when treated at an early stage – has continued to spread.
“The first case was recorded at the end of February, and by 6th May, 4536 cases have been reported in nine local government areas of the state of Bauchi, with the rate of the epidemic continuing to increase.
“We are still potentially in the early phases of the outbreak, given this region is regularly affected by serious and prolonged cholera epidemics,” Miriam Harry, MSF Project Coordinator, was quoted to have said.