Tackling cholera outbreaks in North-east humanitarian emergencies 

Maiduguri, 03 December, 2018 - “In addition to insecurity and despair, we are faced with shortages of food, we are homeless and worst still, cholera killed my husband last year in Muna IDPs camp” said Munakur Mohammed. Thank God you came to our rescue early this year. My children and I have received the vaccine and we are protected now.” 

Munakur lives with her four children as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Dusuman ward having been displaced from Muna IDPs camp where her late husband was killed by cholera in 2017. An outbreak of cholera has been confirmed in Dusuman IDPs camp; hence, Dusuman is among the nine wards implementing the oral   cholera vaccination exercise (OCV). On the second day of the vaccination campaign, Munakur and her four children received OCV in the 5-day exercise.   

She is one of nearly one million beneficiaries targeted with OCV across nine (9) high risk wards in Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC), Jere, Kala/Balge and Ngala Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Borno state in the recent campaign ( 28 November-02 December 2018). As of Day 5 of the campaign, 894,744 persons have been vaccinated out of the targeted 930,602 people, which accounts for 96% administrative coverage rate. A mop-up exercise continued on 03 December 2018 to ensure that every eligible person is reached. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) is providing technical and financial support to prevent and control disease outbreaks in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. “The health system has been significantly disrupted resulting in the rise of preventable disease outbreaks of different magnitudes,” Dr Clement Peter Lasuba, WHO Nigeria Officer-in-Charge said. He noted that, “Whether it is cholera, meningitis, Lassa fever or any other disease outbreak, WHO is committed to improving access to the urgently needed basic healthcare services to the affected populations in the north-east region, in collaboration with government and other health sector partners.” 

Since the declaration of the Grade 3 emergency in north-east Nigeria, in August 2016, WHO has been filling a critical gap in health services through its innovative interventions including mobile health strategy, integrated community case management through community resource persons, (CORPs), special intervention teams and Reaching Every Child (REC) strategy in the three affected states. 

“WHO had remained a partner to count on since the beginning of the insurgency in Borno state,” said the Director for Disease Control at the Borno state Primary Health Care Development Agency (BSPHCDA), Babagana Abiso. He observed that “WHO supported Borno state to establish a robust disease surveillance system which is critical for timely detection, reporting and early response to outbreaks.”

Furthermore, Dr Collins Owili the Emergency Manager, WHO Health Emergencies Programmes in north-east Nigeria stated that WHO’s presence at State, LGAs and community levels is one of its greatest strengths to promptly detect and respond to disease outbreaks. According to him, “Aside from technical facilitation for the release of vaccine for the ongoing oral cholera vaccination campaign in Borno state, WHO had trained and engaged more than 150 volunteers who conducted active house-to-house search for cholera cases and delivered timely lifesaving messages on how to prevent it in the households,” said Dr Owili. “Presently, WHO has deployed more than 50 supervisors including public health officers,  LGA Facilitators and Field Volunteers to ensure quality implementation of the campaign in affected wards,” he added.  

A nine-year conflict has led to the partial or complete destruction of two thirds of healthcare facilities in north-east Nigeria. Consequently, the state has been experiencing several outbreaks of preventable communicable diseases. In 2017, Borno state reported outbreaks of cholera, Lassa fever and measles. WHO provided technical and financial support to control the outbreaks. The Organization also facilitated the release of cholera vaccines from the International Coordinating Group (ICG) that helped to halt a 5-month-old cholera outbreak. It was the first time cholera vaccination campaign was conducted in Nigeria.    


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