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Cholera outbreak is govt’s failure to provide safe public water – CAPPA

Akinbode Oluwafemi | File Image

CAPPA: The resolution to controlling cholera lies in the effective management of public water and sanitation systems

 By Valentine Amanze

The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has raised alarm over Nigeria’s latest cholera outbreak, describing it as the consequence of government’s failure to invest in the provision of safe public water. 

The alarm contained in a statement issued by CAPPA’s Media and Communications Officer, Mr. Robert Egbe, followed the Nigerian government’s confirmation of cholera outbreaks in more than 25 states across the country, including Lagos.

 Also in a recent advisory, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported that 1,141 suspected cases of the disease had been recorded so far in 2024, with at least 30 deaths resulting from 65 confirmed cases of cholera from January 1 to June 11.

Besides, the Lagos State Ministry of Health had warned that the current outbreak associated with the cholera subtype known as Serovars O1 was highly aggressive and contagious.

The Ministry also announced recently that it had recorded 350 suspected cases of cholera, identifying Lagos Island as the epicentre due to its record of the highest number of suspected cases, at 106.

But, as the outbreak ravages, CAPPA lamented that the state authorities’ issuing safety guidelines and precautionary measures, tasking citizens to maintain cleaner sanitary conditions and hygiene were not enough.

Also read: World Health Day: What CAPPA reminded Nigerian govt

It said that such efforts fail short without addressing underlying issues.

“Cholera is an infectious disease that causes diarrhoea and severe dehydration and is typically spread through unsafe water and food contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

“The disease, even though preventable, is particularly vicious in areas where sanitary facilities are insufficient, and the availability of safe water supply is inadequate. As such, the resolution to controlling cholera lies in the effective management of public water and sanitation systems,’’ the statement noted.

“Unfortunately, millions of Nigerians still suffer an acute lack of access to potable water supply and depend on unsafe water sources for utility,’’ Akinbode Oluwafemi, CAPPA’s Executive Director, pointed out.

“The recurring cholera crisis in Nigeria is worsened by the increasing trend of privatisation of basic amenities, including public water supply by state authorities. Where profit motives outweigh the intimate needs of the people, vulnerable populations suffer the most and are left defenceless against water-borne outbreaks such as cholera,’’ he added.

Zikora Ibeh, CAPPA’s Policy and Research Officer, also reflected that while the Lagos State government has acknowledged the severity of the current outbreak and announced that urban slums and overcrowded areas are particularly at risk, its acknowledgement must translate into actionable plans and solutions that prioritise public welfare over corporate interests.

“Nigeria’s cholera problem is also a matter of the inequality in our society. For instance, Lagos State, which hosts millions of inhabitants and presents itself as one of the most progressive cities in the country, still lacks adequate public water supply and sanitation facilities — both fundamental human rights essential for the well-being of people.

“Yet, the state’s continued underinvestment in public water infrastructure, massive retrenchment of public water workers, and transfer of water responsibilities to third-party vendors and market-oriented investors seeking to make cut-throat profits from the basic needs of citizens dismiss and exacerbate this issue. This has left many residents, especially low-income earners and informal community inhabitants, unable to afford the cost of water, reliant on unsafe water sources, and exposed to preventable diseases,” Zikora added.

“To prevent future outbreaks of cholera and safeguard public health, political will is required. There must be an intentional and substantial budgetary investment in public water delivery and sanitation systems across the country, particularly in informal and marginalised communities,” said Akinbode.

The CAPPA statement called on the Nigerian government and state authorities to institutionalise the development of adequate public water supply systems to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their socio-economic status, have access to clean and safe drinking water.  It also urged the government to fund public health facilities and improve the capacity of health professionals to respond to emergencies efficiently.

The organisation advised citizens to protect their health by boiling their drinking water and maintaining proper sanitation and hygiene practices, such as washing their hands regularly with soap and clean water, especially before eating and after using the toilet. It also urged people to immediately report to local health centres at the onset of cholera symptoms.

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