• Friday, July 12, 2024
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The shameful toll of neglect: a cholera crisis demands action in Nigeria

Cholera: Lagos records reduced daily cases

A terrifying truth grips Nigeria, a truth exposed not by a clash of armies but by a preventable disease: cholera. This outbreak cuts a brutal path through communities, laying bare a harsh reality. The Nigerian government, fixated on short-term gains, has neglected the long-term health of its citizens. The result is a human tragedy playing out in real-time. The cost is not just measured in naira and kobo, the Nigerian currency; it’s measured in stolen lives and shattered futures. Hospitals overflow, despair hangs heavy, and a preventable disease becomes a national nightmare.

“The relentless spread of cholera foreshadows other waterborne illnesses waiting in the wings, ready to strike the most vulnerable.”

The numbers speak for themselves: over 1,500 suspected cases, with Lagos alone bearing the brunt of this bureaucratic neglect. Hospitals are overwhelmed, essential supplies dwindle, and despair hangs heavy in the air. This is not some unforeseen disaster; it is the predictable consequence of a reactive healthcare system, one that scrambles to contain outbreaks after they have reached a fever pitch rather than investing in robust public health infrastructure.

Read also: Government’s neglect fuels cholera crisis in Nigeria – experts

Experts paint a grim picture—a landscape of multidimensional poverty and unsanitary living conditions. In countless communities, open defecation and inadequate waste management have become the norm, forcing families to navigate daily life amid filth and squalor. The lack of clean water, a basic human right, transforms what should be a given into an unattainable luxury for many Nigerians. Children play near contaminated water sources, and parents are left with the harrowing choice of using unsafe water or risking dehydration. This dire situation is a recipe for a public health catastrophe, where cholera is merely the first course in a banquet of preventable diseases. The relentless spread of cholera foreshadows other waterborne illnesses waiting in the wings, ready to strike the most vulnerable. The anguish and frustration in these communities are palpable as they grapple with an invisible enemy that thrives in their midst, fueled by the very conditions they are powerless to change.

The government cannot feign ignorance. Dr. Larne Yusuf’s words echo in our ears: “Their failure to invest… has left the population vulnerable.” This isn’t just about healthcare; it’s about basic human dignity. When people are forced to live in squalor, when basic sanitation becomes a privilege, a disease like cholera thrives.

The international community has stepped in, offering crucial support and resources, but this is a burden Nigeria must shoulder itself. Cholera isn’t a foreign invader; it’s a domestic enemy, born from the very soil of neglect and infrastructural decay. We have the power to vanquish the foe with proper waste disposal systems, accessible clean water, and an unwavering commitment to public health.

For instance, a Nigeria where every child can drink from a tap without fear, where waste is managed efficiently, and where health is a priority, not an afterthought. This vision is within our grasp, but it requires immediate and sustained action. We cannot afford another outbreak; the economic and social costs are simply too high. Each cholera case represents a preventable tragedy, a life disrupted, and a community thrown into chaos.

The ripple effects are profound, stalling progress, draining resources, and eroding trust in our institutions. By addressing the root causes of cholera, we invest not just in health but in the future of our nation. We must rise to this challenge, for the sake of our people and the generations to come.

Let this crisis be a wake-up call, a clarion call for change. We need a paradigm shift, a move from reactive firefighting to proactive public health planning. This isn’t just about containing the current outbreak; it’s about building a future fortress against preventable diseases. We must envision a Nigeria where clean water flows freely, sanitation systems function effectively, and robust healthcare protects all citizens.

The Nigerian government must act now with a comprehensive strategy that prioritises the health and well-being of its people. Investment in public health infrastructure, sanitation initiatives, and preventative measures is not a burden but a cornerstone for a thriving nation. The time for neglect is over. The time for action is now. We cannot afford to lose another generation to preventable diseases. Let us rise to this challenge together and build a healthier future for all Nigerians.