AS Enugu joins other 18 Nigerian states as Cholera danger areas, there are concerns that the poor sanitary condition of the ever-busy New Artisan Market will increase infections and make containment unmanageable.
Fourteen (14) persons were confirmed dead in one week, while 19 others contracted the disease.
The incident was confirmed by the Enugu State Commissioner of Health, Emmanuel Ikechukwu Obi, who said seven people died of the disease at the New Artisan Market in the state capital.
In another update on Monday July 19, 2021, the Director, Public Health, Boniface Okoro, said seven more people had died of the infection in the area and 19 more persons infected with the disease. This brings total number of cholera deaths in the state to 14.
Okoro added that many of the affected persons were taken to the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, while others were taken to an undisclosed private hospital in the area for treatment.
Many believed that the state erred in its failure to disclose the private hospital where the infected were being quarantined to help citizens take precautionary measures.
Okoro noted that the outbreak was caused by poor hygiene, improper waste disposal and drinking untreated water.
The New Artisan, where the Cholera occurred is a busy market, mostly occupied by cattle sellers from Nigeria’s northern states.
Prime Business Africa visited the Enugu Artisan Market on Thursday July 21, 2021 and spoke to some traders in the area.
Mr. Ahmed Saleh, a tricycle operator in the market area, stated that they suddenly started hearing about death of some people after brief illness, which became a shock to all of them. Saleh said one of his colleagues in the market’s tricycle park was affected but has recovered after being treated in a private hospital in the area.
Mr. Ibrahim Sani, a trader in the market alleged that the people that died and those who had the sickness were people who drank soya milk, a non alcoholic beverage locally made mainly with soybeans. He alleged that the contaminated liquid was brought to the market by a woman within that period.
Sani said the woman who just came into the market for the first time to sell the beverage drink was giving people free as promo, but according to him the woman has not been seen in the market since the incident occurred.
However, Sani could not substantiate this claim when Prime Business Africa asked him more probing questions.
Besides, a tour of the entire market by Prime Business Africa found that the entire market was fast becoming one big slum; a careless architecture of wet ditches filled with muddy refuse and flooded spaces. Different sections of the market were flooded with dirty water.
Prime Business Africa observed traders and some residents in the area scooping the dirty water for washing and other purposes.
There are also allegations of inadequate toilet facilities in the market area making people resort to open defecation. This was confirmed by some residents in the market area.
“People here defecate inside nylon bags and throw (them) into the open gullies and pools of flood water in the area,” a resident, who would not want to be named, told Prime Business Africa.
Open defecation creates serious environmental pollution, leading to spread of waterborne diseases.
Cholera, according to a publication by the World Health Organization (WHO), is “an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion (in take) of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholera. WHO noted that Cholera is a public health problem which annually causes an estimated 1.3 million to 4 million cases and 21,000 to 143 000 deaths worldwide. It adds that it is“an indicator of inequity and lack of social development.”
Dr. Charles Onyeke, an Enugu-based medical practitioner told Prime Business Africa that “Cholera occurs as a result of infection of human intestine by the bacteria. He confirmed that the disease could be contracted through food or water contaminated by the bacteria, adding that it occurs more often in undeveloped areas lacking good water supply and sewage disposal system. Onyeke revealed that a sick member of a household could equally infect other people.
On prevention and control of the disease, Dr. Onyeke advised that people should wash hands regularly, drink clean water, avoid eating raw edibles, and maintain general sanitation of the environment.
He said the disease could be treated through rehydration therapy, ingestion of antibiotics, zinc supplement and amongst other medical measures.