NIGERIA: Cholera outbreak kills 97 in north

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Local government officials say cholera outbreaks across Katsina, Zamfara, Bauchi and Kano states in northern Nigeria have killed 97 people in the past two weeks, making it the worst outbreak in the north for several years, according to an official from National Primary Healthcare Agency (NPHA) in Abuja.

More than 60 people have died in Zamfara state in the past two weeks, according to Tukur Sani Jangebe, Zamfara’s state commissioner for religious affairs.

“It is quite alarming and it is quite unusual for northern Nigeria. If up to 100 people have died from cholera in just two weeks, you can only imagine how many more are affected by the disease,” an official from the government-run NPHA who requested anonymity, told IRIN.

National government officials have not yet publicly stated if the outbreaks across the separate states are related, or provided figures on the number of affected people.

Jangebe said the death toll may be higher as reports of new infections are still coming in.

In Katsina state in the villages of Makadawa and Kagadama, 20 people, mostly women and children, have died while 30 others have been hospitalised according to local government chairman Masur Usman Murnai. Another nine people have died in Nabardo village in Bauchi state since 13 September, with 40 more affected, according to Garba Sale, a primary health care coordinator. Kano State’s health commissioner Aisha Isyaku Kiru told IRIN five people have died of cholera in the state within the past week.

Dirty water

Across northern Nigeria, heavy rains have washed dirt, rubbish, sewage and other contaminants into ponds and open wells in affected villages where the majority of people get their water, according to Sani Ibrahim, an epidemiologist at Kano state’s Bayero University.

“Torrential rains have been recorded this season and have washed lots of dirt into ponds and open wells. This is in contrast with last year where we had scanty rainfall and no recorded cholera outbreaks,” he said.


In Katsina state, Murnai told IRIN local officials have been running an awareness campaign to urge people to pay close attention to household hygiene and to boil all drinking water.

Health coordinator Sale said in Bauchi state a health surveillance team has been sent to Nabardo village to analyse and disinfect drinking water sources.

In Zamfara state, the local ministry of water resources is trying to find ways to provide clean drinking water to affected communities to halt the spread of the deadly disease, according to local commissioner Jangebe.

But Halliru Salisu, coordinator of a network of Muslim groups in the state, says local government officials were slow to admit the cholera crisis and slow to respond.

Cholera is a bacterial intestinal tract infection that leads to vomiting and diarrhoea, and if untreated, can be deadly.

In March 2008, at least 35 people died of cholera in the towns of Madurdi and Oturkpo in southern Nigeria.