Makurdi, 7 May, 2021 – “I was not only scared about my health; I was also scared for the well-being of three of my children admitted same time as I at the hospital”, says Hajiya Zainab Yusuf, a mother of four from Benue State.
Mrs Yusuf and her family were some of the people diagnosed with Cholera from Abinsi community and treated at the Primary Health Care Centre Abinsi, in Guma LGA.
“I was diagnosed with cholera alongside three of my children. I was so worried about our health. I was not able to take care of them because we were all on admission same time. Unfortunately, I lost one of my children to the disease. Although I am still sad about losing my child, I am grateful to Allah for the help we got from the state government and World Health Organization (WHO). If not for their timely intervention, we would all have died,” she said.
Cholera is a waterborne disease that lives in the environment and infects humans.
Early in January 2021, the Local Government Area (LGA) Disease Surveillance Notification Officers (DSNOs) of Agatu and Guma reported suspected cases of the disease with onset of index cases in Agatu and Guma being 30th December, 2020 and 5th January, 2021 respectively. A common feature of both settlements is their location on the bank of River Benue, from which they also derive their source of water supply.
Two other LGAs, Markurdi and Gwer West, are also located along with the River Benue with Oju, which also reported several cases and deaths, being the only LGA far from the River Benue.
National response to cholera
Benue State is not the only state reporting an outbreak of cholera since the beginning of the year. Seven other states including Delta, Zamfara, Gombe, Bayelsa, Kogi, Sokoto and Nasarawa have similarly registered confirmed cholera outbreaks in 2021. In addition, there have been 7 other states with suspected cholera outbreaks
Cumulatively, 3413 suspected cases including 111 deaths have been reported by 15 states. A total of 1,746 suspected cases including 50 deaths were reported by the eight states with confirmed outbreaks. Benue state reported 718 cases. Majority of the confirmed cases, 63%, are children aged 5 – 14 years according to data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
The number of new cases is progressively declining across all states since mid April 2021. This is as a result of more concerted response interventions by respective states with support from the NCDC, WHO and other partners
In Benue, WHO collaborated with the State Primary Health Care Board, the National Primary Health Cared Development Agency (NPHCDA) and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to sponsor and conduct an Oral Cholera vaccination campaign targeting most affected group; i.e. children aged 2-5years in the affected settlements with the limited quantity of vaccines that were available. A total of 40,493 children aged 2 – 5years were vaccinated.
WHO also supported Benue State with medical supplies to treatment centres used for treatment of cases in the affected communities. The state was also supported in conducting community sensitization campaigns on cholera.
Dr Ahemen Terseer, WHO State Coordinator ai Benue State, said the quick intervention yielded positive result in the state leading to a decline in cases now being reported.
“Within one week of having the borehole in the community, no new cases were reported!” Other control measures embarked upon are: Community sensitization on water and food hygiene. There have been campaigns on the need to stop the practice of open defecation. Jingles are also on the radio stations in the state, he said..
Dr ZORTO, Dwamo Philip; Email: zortop [at] who.int;